Friday, 4 November 2011

秋葉原 : Akihabara

Yesterday my friend Max and I headed to Akihabara, a district of Tokyo I'd heard a lot about.  It's the 'geek capital' of Tokyo, and the headquarters of the otaku subculture.  It's somewhere anyone interested (/obsessed) with anime, video games, cosplay or electronics should definitely check out.  Even if none of those things particularly interest you, as is the case for me, it's still worth a look.

The first, and perhaps most obvious thing I'll say about Akihabara is that it's very, very, very Japanese; I mean it's very Japanese.  All of the stereotypes people have about Japan and Tokyo can be found here.  We spent a good amount of time just walking around the area, taking everything in.  There's lots of neon, lots of J-Pop playing everywhere, lots of manga shops, lots of games shops, and even more electronics shops, selling both vintage 80s stuff, and many, many futuristic gadgets which I couldn't even work out the function of...what they say about Japanese gadgetry being years ahead really is true. On the topic of vintage stuff, there were several shops that bought up lots of old games consoles when they came out in the late 80s and early 90s, and are now selling them new.  If things get really desperate and boring in my room, I could always go down to Akihabara and buy a brand new Nintendo Super Famicon with Mariokart for £25...

Also extremely prevalent in Akihabara are Maid Cafés.  The waitresses in these wear cosplay outfits, generally as French maids but often also as anime or manga characters.  They greet their customers with "welcome home, master", and generally act as cute servants, decorating the food and drink, and even playing video games with the clientele.  Some cafés even go as far as having the maids spoon-feed the customers.  And then there are the ノーパン喫茶 (no-pan kissa); 'no-panties cafés', with their mirrored floors.  I don't think I need to go any further into explaining them. 

Out in force on the streets of Akihabara are the maids, offering passers-by the flyers of their cafés, in their horrible, screechy, fake voices. Honestly, I can't even begin to describe the 'cute' voices they put on, they penetrate your brain they're so....Japanese? I don't know how you'd describe them.  One maid started talking to me when I was outside a café.  We had an awkward conversation in English, and then a similarly awkward one in Japanese when she realised that wasn't working, and then after discovering she was Chinese, an even more awkward one in Mandarin.  After that I decided it was probably best to carry on exploring.

Max and I decided that it would be a waste to spend some time in Akihabara without having a couple of goes at a video arcade, and then we came across Club Sega.

There were five floors of crammed arcades, with loads of different games on offer, from shooters, to Tekken-style fighting games, to racing games, which we opted for.

Max overtook me right at the end after a really even race, and won. Boo.

Oh, and otaku Japanese are very into their PVC schoolgirl and nurse costumes.  How would I look in one?  I probably shouldn't go into the other things available for purchase at this shop.  I didn't even realise some of the things in this six floor *cough* shop existed.  Those geeks sure are adventurous. 

Thus concludes my trip to Akihabara. If you want to be freaked out by how weird some groups of Japanese society are, then definitely go have a wander around it!

After leaving Akihabara, Max took me for some grub and a few drinks in Koenji.  It was full of really nice little bars and vintage clothes shops, so I'll probably make a blog post about it later, after I've had a proper explore.  I did have some truely mind-blowing sashimi, though; it was delicious.

One week until my 20th birthday! :D


Photo of the Day

On a photo album. Sounds exciting to me!

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