Akihabara was the first part of Tokyo I went to which truly blew my mind. There was an actual explosion with brain matter and shards of bone flying about all over the place. Full of otaku culture, manga, anime, cosplay and computer goods, this was my teen self’s heaven.
First I want to talk about the arcades. And when I say arcade I mean nothing like what we see in England or the US. I mean floor after floor of brightly lit gaming machine in a building with pounding music and a handful of patrons. I mean an arcade where everything is serious, you play for real and if youths annoy you then you can punch them in the face (I don’t know if this is true but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is). There were businessmen playing games here with a look of pure concentration on their faces. Though I have no idea how they do concentrate – these arcades are loud. Loud in the sense that you can hear nothing else and all internal monologues go on hiatus.
On the first floor (or ground floor as us English would call it) you get the games that are targeted towards taking your money. I hate these games because I never win. Though Sister and I did try – the shop assistant even helped us – but surprisingly we didn’t win and left hating the pincers which couldn’t actually pince (at least I did – Sister has a more laissez faire attitude towards gaming machines).
Akihabara is also home to all the maid cafes, and while I wrote a whole post about it here, I just want to stress again how incredibly strange the whole situation was. Strange in this amazing, crazy, fantastic sort of way. The costumes, the food, the actions Sister and I had to do in order to fully participate (I have never meowed so much in my life), were all just verging on the fetish and very, very fun. We picked this particular maid café because the maids hand out leaflets on the streets of Akihabara and she was the first one we met. When we were heading back to the station we saw a maid with a tail and that had definitely crossed the line into fetishism.
The manga shops were another world. Floor upon floor of manga volumes and figurines with some keyrings and collectable cards thrown in for good measure. I used to be an avid manga reader and anime watcher when I was younger and nothing reminded me more of my age than recognising almost nothing on sale. Times have moved on and I am still stuck in Card Captor Sakura and Bleach land.
It was our first experience of the magnitude of Tokyo and it was amazing.