Akihabara – a place where you can buy electronics, anime and lightsticks

Tokyo is in my opinion, the best city in the world. It has different faces and it is impossible to be bored there. It consists of several different cities, each of them has its own character and atmosphere. You want to party? You should go to Shibuya. You want to feel the atmosphere of old Japan? Then you should go to Asakusa. And if you really need a wallet from the latest Chanel collection, you will definitely find it in Ginza. But the capital of Japanese pop culture is Akihabara. Here you will find shops with accessories from Japanese manga, maid cafes and electronics stores. Akihabara is also a place where popular, female music bands such as AKB 48 were born. Sometimes, tourists can get lost in Akihabara and then they end up in very, very bad places…

Akihabara is located in the eastern part of Tokyo, in “old heart” of town. There are over 5,000 larger and smaller stores on a small area. A huge part are electronic shops, from large stores with typical home equipment to specialist sellers or shop only selling components. Akihabara is the largest district in the world with stores of this type. Tourists from all over the world come here just to buy electronic equipment. For this reason, mass-market manufactures have started to produce goods that can be used outside of Japan and shops also started to employ foreign workers. In the 90s, shops for hobbyists, which were selling anime or video games began to be created here. This is the second face of Akihabara, which attracts Otaku, a Japanese subculture. They began to gather in Akihabara, seeking a rare collection of figures or manga. Otaku are responsible for how this district looks today.

Akihabara has changed with the Japanese economy and society. It can even be said that it reflects the stages of development of the modern world. After the Second World War people selling electronic components started to gather here. They set up their stores around Akihabara, but the occupation forces brought them together in one location. Radios appeared on the market and anyone who wanted to buy them came to Akihabara and it became the radio district. Right after that, other products such as TV began to be sold. Electronic progress followed, and Akihabara became the electric town. Then from the late 1970s, personal computers began to appear and radio hobbyists expanded their interests into this area. Akihabara from the radio district transformed into an electric town and then into a computer district. You can say that it is a symbol of Japan’s economic development.

On a weekdays Akihabara surprisingly quickly gets empty, stores close around 22, the last metro also leaves by this hour. It’s calm and quiet.

There are over 300 electronic stores on 500 square meters. Their quality is on a different level, there are four main types of shops: mass market retailers, places such as electronics shops in departments stores.  Retail specialists with a narrow assortment who attract mainly professionals. The third category are parts stores. Some of them exist on the market for up to 50 years. They offer thousands of products, also for appliances that have come out of use. If you would like to repair an old TV, and you can not buy part for it, you will definitely find it in Akihabara. The last type are ‘junk’ shops, which dismantle used electronic equipment and sell its parts at lower prices. These four types of stores do not compete, but complement each other. The main feature of Akihabara, that distinguishes it from other such places in the world is a huge selection of goods. From the modern electronics to retro equipment for enthusiasts and collectors.

A rapidly growing part of Akihabara is the Japanese subculture of Otaku. For more than 10 years, a video games, manga and anime, accessories and figures stores have been created here. Thousands of fans from Japan and abroad come here to find things only available in Akihabara. Otaku stands for a fanatical collector and there are different types of Otaku. Some of them will collect electronic parts. Others are curious about technological news, when new equipment appears on the market, they certainly have it first. There are software and content otaku. Moe-kei otaku want to see anime characters in real life. They will collect figures or dress up as favorite characters.

When you walk through the streets of Japan you should look up all the time. A little space ensure that buildings are narrow and high. Often, on the upper floors, there are restaurants and cafes. It is no different in Akihabara. Shop for hobbyists, located in an old, tiny building, can have 6 or 7 floors. By entering a narrow staircase you pass the next floors of initiation. And here’s a tip for traveling with children: Watch out for how high you go with them!

First floor: Oh! What a beautiful figures!
Second floor: Look, there is manga and anime, I wonder if there is a new part of my favorite?!
Third and fourth floor: The rest of collector’s goods, about which I have no idea.
Fifth floor: Wow! Maids costumes and school uniforms…
Sixth floor: Oh, my God! Children, do not look!

The higher you go, the more perverse it gets. The highest floors of such buildings are shops for fans of erotic accessories and porn. Shelves bend under thousands of records with the latest porn productions (yes, the Japanese buy DVD’s with porn in stores!). And you do not have to buy a pig in a poke, there are tiny televisions on which films are played.  So you can ask a seller for a movie that is being played.

I mean, that what I’ve heard. I do not go in such places. My friend told me…

In Akihabara there is also the largest department store in Japan with erotic accessories. It’s called M’s Pop Life. It even has its own television, which can be viewed on the TV at the building.

Akihabara is also a place where you can meet Japanese idols from female bands. These are girls who aspire to be stars. Every day they appear on small stages located somewhere on the floor or in the basement of the shop. Fans applaud, scream idol’s names, and they wave rhythmically with lightsticks… Lightsticks are a very important part of Otaku’s culture and equipment necessary during the concert. Some Otaku even create their own choreography.

 

Idols from Akihabara are very close to Japanese society. These are not inaccessible stars that we see somewhere far away on stage during a concert or in a colorful magazine. You can talk to them and take a picture. Idols are like characters from games or anime but in real life. It also happens that some of the bands become stars on the Japanese market and even abroad. A perfect example is AKB 48, whose name comes from Akihabara. There is a rumor that each girl in band must be a virgin.

Accessories with idols

AKB 48 TheaterGirls can not have boyfriends, because fans will be disappointed. AKB 48 has its own theater, annually they give hundreds of concerts and you can buy thousands of gadgets with them. The girls are innocent and charming and very kawaii. And this is my favorite song – “Fortune Cookie”… hmmm… I do not think I know another one, but it does not matter! Just listen!

 

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