Akihabara

On the final night in the city we had a little bit of time left to do those last things we had not got around to doing. There was one place I had wanted to go to but had failed to do so with the time I had had so far; Akihabara or Electric City as it is also known. This is the one place to go to in Japan if you want to get anything remotely electronic with store upon store selling everything you could imagine and a ton of stuff that you couldn't even dream up. 2 gadgets had been released in the final few days of the trip; the new Nintendo gameboy and a special edition white PSP. I thought it might be a good idea to see if I could get either to take back, for bragging rights only of course!


As detailed earlier, Japan has an excellent rail network and one of the main lines used is the Yamanote loop, which surrounds central Tokyo. The phrase "to be in the loop" is rumoured to have come from American businessmen working in the centre as if you're working in Central Tokyo you'll know what is going on! On this particular occasion I wanted to get from Shibuya, in the south-west to Akihabara in the east. Each station on the loop has it's own little musical anthem to indicate that the doors are going to close so I thought I'd ride the entire loop and hear them all (a lot of them can be found here). To ensure punctuality drivers on this line often sleep in company dormitories and are awoken by air bags that lift their heads up, they chose this technique over alarm clocks as they wanted a system that wouldn't disturb other sleeping drivers. How considerate!

Eventually arriving at Akihabara I saw this bizarre looking poster of a baby in a pizza box advertising what I don't know. The letters don't the right spell "ba-bu ba-bu", which makes no sense either (baby I'm guessing). What made this look particularly odd is that they've used a Western baby and not a Japanese one.

Once again, Akihabara was closed and pretty much deserted, why couldn't this bit of Japan stay open late? Perhaps at this time of night the Otaku (Japanese equivalent of geeks) are at home playing all their video games. Akihabara is usually the place for debuting new machines and games and its not uncommon to see huge queues going on for miles hours in advance of the shops opening. The release of Final Fantasy VII saw people queueing for weeks! Apparently there wasn't much of a queue when the X-Box 360 was launched here. Take that Gates!!

As well as being the mecca for electronic goods, Akihabara is also popular for it's anime and Manga. This poster is advertising Mabinogi, which I thought was anime story but it actually turns out that it is an online multiplayer game like Warcraft. It seems to be pretty popular given the number of people on screen at any one time. From what I can see it looks like you can play as anything, including animals.

A lot of anime here and this pic is blurry because I felt odd taking pictures of this stuff especially as some of it was a little risque. Of course the Japanese wouldn't bat an eyelid as this stuff is common place around Japan, it's not too uncommon to see pornographic manga being read on trains for instance.

Plenty of neon in this area, its just a shame none of it was open. I want to buy an electronic gadget!

Another homeless person literally pulling his home along with him. I know every major city has its homeless problem, it's just sad to see it here.

Having walked quite a distance from the station and failing to find anything open I started to head back and on the way I noticed this place open; I have no idea how I missed it. Yes! I might be able to get something after all.

I know that the more bizarre side to the Japanese culture features girls dressed up in different outfits. This store had a poster of 4 girls, apparently called Moe Moe Corps in French Maid outfits welcoming you to the store. As it turned out the the girls that worked in this place were wearing the outfits as their uniform. For strange reason they only worked on the top floor though. I'm glad my curiousity ensure I checked out every single floor.

I can only assume that you can have your picture taken with the girls here, or maybe it was some kind of stage for them to perform at. I just didn't get it at all and there was no way I was going to ask if I was right. I was actually too scared to approach the girls. A group of lads were nearby nervously huddled around a screen showing some hentai (the most pornographic of the manga forms). I'm assuming they were either too scared or too into the video to make a move either.
This stuff was very tame compared to some of the material I saw there. In manga, the characters typically have big eyes to reflect their souls. Those with large oversized eyes are typically the innocent or good characters in the stories. Those with smaller eyes more in proportion are actually the evil ones.

In the end I had to ask if there were any gameboys in stock as it would have taken me days to locate them in all the stuff they were selling. You could buy just about anything in this store from crash helmets to candles, flippers to barbecues (bit odd for Japan). Fortunately there were a couple of machines still in stock and I was able to buy one. They had sold out of the white PSPs but they did have some in a gambling machine that I didn't bother playing. I figured the chances of me winning in time to catch the train would be too slim.

Yodobashi-Akiba is the hub of Akihabara (Akiba, is the colloquial name for the area). Like as happened in Ginza in previous years, the larger corporations (Yodobashi in this case) are setting up massive stores in the area which will likely see the end of the smaller traders that surround it. This complex clearly dominates the area and will sell just about anything.

Heading back and another bit of Western culture hits Japan. I really like this poster as I hadn't seen it in the West. Trust the Japanes to have their movie posters in widescreen too!

I finally make it back to the hotel and the last picture I took on the trip was the hotel dog bar where dogs can get a drink outside whilst their owners do the same inside. Cute!

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