The Otaku Allure of Akihabara
Akihabara is an intriguing place for any visitors traveling to Japan, it is a name that’s even becoming famous in the west. Say “Akihabara” and one thing comes to mind: Otaku (translated as geek). The district first developed into an ‘Electric Town” when shops carrying electronics components and electric appliances popped up after World War II. Later, with the boom of the “Otaku subculture” the focus changed and more shops appeared targeting those new enthusiast of anime, manga, visual novel, retro video games, figurines, card games and other collectibles.
Located to the west of Akihabara Station on the Yamanote Line are block after block of stores, from eight-story department stores to tiny arcade shops barely big enough for the owner to stand in. There are all sorts of colorful shop fronts and advertisement with anime characters and girls dressed in maid outfit giving out leaflet on the street. There are game centers and many more activities to be seen and experienced. Akihabara is surely a fun area. Be careful tough, Akiba can also be your wallets worst nightmare especially if you are into anime, saying from experience you wont realise until the end of the day where you are seen carrying multiple bags wondering how you are going to bring it back home. The unpredictability of how much you are going to spend is simply something we will never understand but that is what makes Akiba special, it is not called the Otaku Paradise for nothing!
There are shops like Softmap, Toranoana, Animate and Akiba Culture Zone that sells pure otaku goodness. From Anime Blu-ray, DVDs and manga to character goods, figures and games, the variety of merchandise on offer is mind-bogglingly vast and will make fans wish they were made of money. At Yodobashi, one of the best places for electronics, you will find a wide range of anything to be honest, cameras, computers and all sorts, its where I got the latest lens for my Sony a7 camera just make sure you bring your passport for a 10 percent discount! For some entertainment there is SEGA where you can have a break and play in that arcade that is filled with different sorts. Test yourself against one of the best folks in town which you will be left impressed at how much you need to improve. Visit a Maid Cafe such as Mai lish or schatzkiste cafe where you are treated like a master, I found these two cafes more genuine where the maids are more friendlier and talkative compared to the more popular @Home Cafe. Last but not least, visit a Sex Shop such as the m’s tower, theres no taboo about it and it will definitely leave you with some stories for back home!
So what exactly does it mean to be an otaku? At the general level, an otaku is a person displaying an obsessive interest. In reference to Akihabara however, an otaku is someone (generally male, but not always) who devotes considerable time and energy to watching anime, reading manga (Japanese comics) and playing video games.
While admission of geekdom once carried a strongly negative connotation, the otaku movement is currently enjoying a global renaissance. One prominent example is the former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, who proudly admitted his love of manga to journalists, and included the promotion of this culture on his foreign policy agenda (Firestone, 2010: link).