Akihabara: where modernity and escapism mixes together
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Akihabara is a buzzing part of Tokyo where commerce and escapism meets and for locals, tourists, and people who travel from within Japan, it is clear that Akihabara offers many things to different people. If you want to visit a place where the latest high tech gadgets and other electronic goods are on sale then Akihabara is unrivaled in the world. Therefore, Akihabara is awash with people who are waiting to buy the latest electronic models on the market.
At the same time this electronic town offers a different world and this applies to maid café bars, anime, and it is a place for otaku goods. Or for some people, the world of surrealism and realism blend naturally and if so, then the visitor can make the most of both worlds in Akihabara.
If you are looking for classical Tokyo then this is not the place to visit but if you want to feel the vibrancy of modernity and check out the latest gadgets on offer then Akihabara is your dream.
Also, the electronic beauty of Akihabara is that it is not only famous for newly developed electronic goods which have just entered the market but it is also a place where the old world of electronic goods can be found. Therefore, if you are nostalgic and see the world in pixels or you dream about the first videogame which got you fascinated by this new world then Akihabara also provides ample opportunities to search around and find your hidden childhood.
The nearer you are to the main train station in Akihabara and the Chou-dori, the more user friendly it is for foreign nationals who have limited Japanese. However, if you shop around and are more adventurous it may be rewarding for you because bargains can be found. Also, more specialist shops may provide what you are looking for and for nostalgic seekers it may be more rewarding to take your time and see the best of the major retail companies and smaller shops.
Akihabara is also vibrant because of other factors and many maid café bars have sprung up in this part of Tokyo. It is true that you also get maid café bars in parts of Osaka and several can be found in Shinjuku, however, it seems that they fit in well with the theme of Akihabara and Shinjuku does not provide the natural ambience of maid café bars.
Despite the ladies outside dressing sexily and the image being one of very cute ladies it is clear that maid café bars do not have any sexual overtones. In many ways the maid café ladies are like the geisha ladies in old Japan but of course the surroundings and time have changed. However, just like geisha ladies, they serve people in piety and both are entertainers but one is based on traditional culture and another is the modern world of Tokyo.
Many locals and tourists alike enjoy maid cafes and if you want to experience something unique or to escape daily life, then a visit may refresh you. It is also worth pointing out that many maid café bars are very busy and new services have been added like fully clothed massages and so forth.
The maid café ladies certainly blend in with the world of electronics and many otaku and fans of anime flock to the environment of Akihabara.
The Tokyo Anime Center is another added attraction which is located in Akihabara. Although the building is not huge it is certainly welcoming and you can obtain information in Chinese, English, and Korean, and of course in the native language.
In the past Akihabara was staunchly known for being famous for electrical goods but the growth of anime and maid café is changing all this and now all are part and parcel of Akihabara and this fusion makes the visit even more intriguing and distinctive.
Therefore, the world of Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Mazinger Z, Ultra Man, and for me, Ghost in the Shell, opens up and the rich culture of Nara seems like a different planet. In truth, this is the beauty of Japan because it offers many worlds and environments within the same nation and clearly Tokyo is a city where you can find ample diversity and the same can be said about Osaka.
Akihabara is a gaming and anime heaven and if you want to search out the latest gadgets then this town is a must to visit.