Thursday, November 11, 2010
Akihabara - the electric town
Let's make things clear. I don't want to write any travel-guide slogans but if you ever go to Tokyo and have even the slightest interest in either electronic consumer goods or Japanese pop culture, you should visit Akihabara Electric Town. This relatively small (according to local standards) shopping area is a part of Chiyoda and stretches across only a few blocks. It is, however, packed with numerous street stalls as well as huge, many-storied, luxurious department stores offering their customers any kind of electrical equipment and hobby related commodities. Otakus come here from all over Japan to admire their favourite manga, anime, computer games and figurines of the characters in all sizes (including real-life scale). There are shops with do-it-yourself models, specialised magazines, really strange souvenirs, basic electronic parts or wires, not to mention newest computer hardware or even prototype robots. What's truly unique and pleasantly nostalgic, you can also buy some vintage stuff like prehistoric gaming systems or wooden-case equipment. Namely everything that runs on electricity is here, no matter if it's old or new. No wonder that this place attracts a lot Chinese millionaires who spend here their fortunes on "cool Japanese stuff", so fashionable in the Far East countries. And yes, the prices are sometimes sky-high, but at least it's always free to look.
Also, I've never considered myself a true manga fan, but I have watched some of the most well-known ones in my time. And I have to say I was just in awe of all the stuff I found in Akihabara. Clothes, mugs, mouse-pads, chopsticks, carpets, toilet-seats - everything in anime-related themes and obviously way to expensive. I especially liked all the beautiful, hand-made, precise figurines, strongly exposing heroines' womanly attributes. There was also a fair amount of hentai and special toys for adults, some of witch even I was too embarrassed to photograph. But this is Japan, erotica is around every corner and not a huge taboo. Of course, it's also really well hidden from the kids, so no worries here. And speaking of adult entertainment, Akihabara also offers a wide range of "meido kafe" with cute, cosplaying waitresses. According to rumors, not only coffee is served there.
The Electric Town is really a lot of fun and surely a landmark in modern Japan's landscape. Although I have been there a few times (mostly to get good deals on my mobile phone and Internet connection), I never managed to take photos that would clearly show the specific atmosphere of the place. So this time I would like to post a picture by Rob Sheridan. Make sure to visit his gallery of some amazing Tokyo pics. It's here.