Akihabara from the Eyes of a First Time Tourist
The Otaku Heaven Called Akihabara
Akihabara, a haven of Tokyo subculture, is not only for geeks and Otaku. Although the most distinguishing characteristic of the place is its electronics and gaming shops, it has much to offer aside from electronic gadget shopping. Tokyo, one of the most expensive cities in the world, has the best deals found in Akihabara. Excited to see what it is like to be in the heart of Tokyo pop culture, I rode the train via the Yamanote Line and JR Line to get to Akihabara.
Given the limited time, there is one shop a traveler to Akihabara should not miss --the Yodobashi Akiba. This nine-storey building filled with electronic gadgets, appliances, toys, cameras, games, model kits, and other gizmos can be overwhelming to a first-time visitor such as I. It helps that each floor is dedicated to a specific classification of products to keep shoppers from getting lost in awe and distraction. The store opens at 9:30 a.m. and closes at 10:00 p.m.
Akihabara is called the Electric Town for a good reason. Looking around, you can literally find that whole place is packed with stores and buildings selling electronics and gaming devices. At night, the town is a sight to behold. It comes alive with all the flashing lights and billboards, each one trying to grab your attention.
Aside from the geeky stuff, Akihabara offers other forms of entertainment. There are several adult shops with several floors offering the widest array of adult sex toys, sexy apparel, and other paraphernalia related to adult entertainment. In a store called Mandarake, a whole floor is dedicated to porn and hentai. Of course, the other floors also offer electronics, toys, and the usual stuff that come with Japanese pop culture. I surmise that this is a town catering to literally all sorts of entertainment and they are proud about it.
Pupils dilated, I walked along the streets with my fired-up the curiosity of a tourist. Pretty ladies in attractive (sometimes skimpy) maid costumes brave the cold weather as they give out flyers to invite guests to visit their maid cafe, a place where guests will be pampered, entertained, and served by pretty girls in maid outfits. This form of entertainment is unique to Tokyo, and a solid part of Akihabara subculture.
Hobbyists of model kits, anime enthusiasts, and manga fans would have to prepare their wallets when they visit Akihabara, not because items are expensive, but due to the many low-priced merchandise (including rare items) that they will find which may not available anywhere else.
I came as a curious observer to see what Akihabara offers to an ordinary tourist. There is too much to absorb and the place cannot be toured in a day to be able to appreciate the town and its unique subculture. The town has transformed me in a delightfully twisted way. Will I go back to Akihabara in the future? I definitely will!