Thanks for the comments and tweets on my Mt Fuji post folks. It was a pretty big deal for me as many of you know so the kind words are much appreciated! I have pulled up really well today, just a tiny bit of lethargy, so nothing stopping me from getting out in Tokyo again.
Today was almost as monumental as Fuji. Well, not quite, but today’s destination was always going to be a bit of fun… Akihabara. My mate Glen said if I went I would never leave. Not quite, but he wasn’t far off. I felt way more affinity with Akihabara straight off the bat than Shinjuku or Shibuya.
For those not down with otaku culture, Akihabara is Tokyo’s main anime/manga/video game/electronics/toy/nerd district. Otaku is the term that encapsulates those people into these things. While I am not a massive anime fan, video games and toys oh yeah. This should be fun.
Let me give you some impressions why I hit it off with Akihabara pretty much straight away. The electronics I could take or leave to be honest. I didn’t see much that stood out or was particularly new. What I did love though were the many stores selling toys and action figures, and the stores selling old school (think game and watch and SNES) video games. This was way more fun than the generic department stores of the other districts and added way more personality.
It is quite mind blowing just how many action figures there are out there, but even more crazy is how many Japanese people are out there buying them. And I am talking every kind of figure possible. So what did I buy? I just satisfied myself with a handful of small Godzilla figures for my desk. They are easy to pack.
So it was great fun just trawling through those stores, just as it was great fun checking out all the old school video games. Game and Watch! Pity they were so expensive. And pity my SNES won’t play Japanese SNES cartridges as the amount of old games I could pick up for just a few bucks each was crazy.
I know that this culture starts to cross over into adult territory pretty quickly, particularly with the comics. Boy does it ever. I was browsing through the manga section of one store when suddenly those comics weren’t looking all that innocent. The reputation Japan has for being extreme was right there in my face.
One thing that is also extreme, but in a completely different way is the Maid Cafe scene. There are girls in maid outfits everywhere handing out flyers to visit. Now, I know what some of you must be thinking. “Maid Cafes? That doesn’t sound too innocent”. Well, they are sickly innocent. And I had to visit one.
The @Home Cafe was my destination. I had heard quite a bit about it and seemed to be the most popular. Like most, you are greeted by a number of waitresses in french maid costumes with “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!” or “Welcome home, master!” who then serve you some kitschy, cute, cafe fare. Me, I went for an ice coffee and an ice cream waffle, complete with chocolate syrup love hearts drawn on by my maid. I am sure I was being pampered, however again my lack of Japanese and their lack of English wasn’t helping. But they were trying to be very helpful I could tell that. At one point some singing and clapping started, but I couldn’t tell really what was happening. But I just joined in anyway. It was hard not to find it hilarious.
I have an unfortunate lack of photos from this experience, as they have a no photos policy. I couldn’t even take one of my food. But it is all a way you can fork out more money for the privilege of a photo with your maid. 500 yen you say? Why not!
I couldn’t resist. Here is me, with tiger ears, hamming it up. I find it hilarious and not at all embarrassing. I’m in Tokyo for crying out loud! My maid very nicely wrote some english on my photo for me, although I think my name got a little lost in translation. I am now officially “Mitt” not “Matt” on both the photo and my @Home loyalty card. That adds to the awesomeness.
So many hours passed in Akihabara. I well and truly got wrapped up in the place. As I was leaving I found the Gundam Cafe. From the look of it there wasn’t much special except for heaps of Gundam figures inside. I was all cafe’d out for the moment, but there is still a few days left, so I might be back.
I decided to jump on the train and swing by Shinjuku on my way back to the hostel. I got wind of some more record stores so wanted to complete my day. Browsing LP’s in a foreign city is pretty sweet.
I also made an effort to wander through the Golden Gai. This is the area in Shinjuku that has all the tiny bars. And I thought there was some small bars in Melbourne. I wandered past one that could fit (and I counted) 4 people. Kinda odd, but cool. That’s Tokyo right there.