Akihabara: My Favorite Place to Explore

Where can you see a bit of recent history, buy almost anything, have a unique dining experience, and see a unique side of Tokyo's millions, all in one place?
 Hop a train and spend a Sunday in Akihabara!
 Akihabara became what it is today soon after World War Two. A fairly large hub on the east side of Tokyo, a market of electronics components quickly developed under the tracks as Tokyoites tried to build or rebuild radios, televisions, and other electronic devices. The arched elevated railways still exist from decades ago.
 Near the river, a statue looks down the waterway, a lost lady in a field of shrubbery.
 This river defines the boundary between Akihabara and Kanda, as far as tourists go. Crossing this river is like going from one world to another.
 If you do venture towards Kanda (where the fantastic DevilCraft Chicago-style pizza place is) you might walk under the tracks.
 A small part of old Tokyo left visible among the modern buildings.
 Okay, so what about the Akihabara tourists want to see? The buildings are colorful, covered with advertisements.
 Take a stroll down the main street, closed to vehicular traffic Sunday afternoons. The place is so crowded that the extra road space helps to handle the foot traffic!
 Near the station, you can see one of several arcades (Sega, across the tracks).  There are also several electronics stores in the area - the business that originally made Akihabara famous. And that white building is an adult superstore. It might be worth exploring to get an idea how Japanese folks behave behind closed doors (there's another, better - cleaner feeling - store closer to the station called M's Pop Life).
 I'm in the building across from the adult store in the prior picture, which has several floors of otaku goods - toys, gaming cards, figurines, and dolls. A whole floor is devoted to dolls. Not the sex dolls Japan is famous for (see those in the adult stores), mind you, but I don't think many girls come here to dress their Betty Wettys. I visit this store often because there's a trading card store on one of the upper floors.
 Over the years, electronics stores have been replaced by stores such as that - gadgets made way for figurines and games. Giant models sometimes show up in random places, like that flute-playing goddess above (she was for sale when I took the photo) and whatever this is, displayed inside Akihabara's train station.
 Geeky things in the geek capital of the world attracts geeks. And Japanese geeks carry cameras. So you end up with dozens of people surrounding the model taking photos.
 Okay, let's go shopping. Take the escarator (gotta love Engrish) up through the electronics stores. The biggest store is Yodobashi Camera, my preferred shopping destination (found on the east side of the station). Several much-smaller stores are found on the west side, with major retailers along the main road and smaller shops found in the surrounding alleys and walkways.
 If it's adult goods you want, you're probably in the right place. Akihabara has become a neighborhood that seems to accept any taste. There are three obvious adult superstores in Akihabara, and dozens more found up stairs. I've walked into what seems to be a video game, figurine or collectible store, traveled upstairs or toward the back of the store, and suddenly found myself surrounded by adult toys or videos.
 There's plenty to eat here, too. Good luck finding the piggy. But you can get almost anything here. I found a kebab pita location recently, plus there are plenty of curry, gyudon (beef bowl), and American fast food locations. On Sunday, most places will have a wait so it might be better to plan your meals elsewhere.
 But go any other day of the week, and you have freedom of choice. Just read the signs, and you never know what you'll find. I'm not sure what happens in that Dining Bar, because nobody's talking about it. (HA HA HA.) Actually, many tourists come to Japan for the maid cafes.
 There are a ton of them, with different tastes. Some focus on the "maid" service aspect, some work the cosplay angle by changing costumes often, and others have themes like a German beer house or a vampire cafe.
 The food has been decent at the few I've tried, though it's usually expensive. And expect a cover charge (it's best to do research or ask questions to be sure of what you're getting). The most foreigner-friendly (though not the cheapest) are the highly-visible MaiDreamin', Pinafore, and @Home. I enjoyed my trip to Pinafore the most, though the photo above was taken at CosCha (I think?!), where they dress up in their own cosplay outfits and it's more of a themed bar than a maid cafe. By the way, pictures usually cost extra.
Speaking of pictures, you can occasionally catch girls in cosplay on the street. The first photo in this post was taken of a random girl who enjoys cosplay. The above photo was taken at a promotional event. Frequently, major comic or video game releases have some sort of event with tables set up to sell the product quickly. You might just see a beautiful lady like the one above.
While taking photos of cosplay girls is perfectly fine after asking for permission, the maids handing out fliers on the street usually don't like having their photos taken. As I mentioned above, the photos taken in the store are a source of income for the cafe and sometimes the girl, and they make no money just posing on the street. So be sure to ask!

There's a lot more to see in Akihabara - I've shown you a bunch already over the past year. But I'll be bringing you even more in the future. Until then...

No comments:

Post a Comment