For those of you who don’t follow me on twitter, and that means pretty much everyone, I recently went to Japan. Two of my days were spent in Akihabara. Below are some of my thoughts on what some have referred to as the Anime holy land.
1 – Gamers and Animate are nice stores and they are definitely worth visiting, but unless you can read Japanese there really isn’t all that much for a foreigner to get here. While these stores do have some character goods, there are other places that you can get them for much less. I’d recommend going to places not on Chuo-Dori, even though you will feel drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Stores like Kotobukiya and the Cospa Gee Store have a lot of good character goods for a lot of popular/current anime, including T-shirts, wall scrolls, mugs, CDs, etc.
2 – While it was difficult to not have an otakugasm while walking in the many stores I visited, the most interesting things to me was how all of these stores were able to constantly supply themselves and keep up to date. Since I went on the weekend I suppose it was likely less of a spectacle than I made it out to be, as I am sure there are less hectic days. Still, it seemed like the workers were constantly restocking shelves of manga, or putting in new merchandise while customers crowded the stores. Even more amazing was the way the arcades operated. Though my next note dives into more detail regarding the arcades, the constant turnover of what prizes offered was fairly amazing. As an example, I went to one arcade late Saturday night and then again Sunday morning, and it seemed like 75 percent of the prizes were different. I suppose this makes sense, given that people likely don’t want to win, or even play for the same prizes on a constant basis, but it was still pretty interesting. You could probably apply some of these concepts to a lot of big cities around the world in some way or another, the rest of Tokyo included, it just wasn’t something I think about on a day to day basis.
3 – If you have ever been to a Casino then you would probably understand what it is like to play in an Akihabara arcade. I spent most of my time trying to win prizes on some of the lower floors of the numerous arcades, as I have nowhere the level of skill to compete with the people playing video games on higher floors. Most of the prize games, if not all of them require the use of the UFO drop, and further require multiple plays to win. After someone does win, an attendant comes by to reset the game by putting the prize in a predetermined spot, which makes it sufficiently difficult but also equally alluring. Iwon’t get into the specifics of all of the separate games, but suffice it to say there are some that you just won’t be able to do. If you ever play in these arcades, i’d focus on the games you know you can win at that have the most personally alluring prizes, rather than basing your game choice on what you want the most. Everything can be bought somewhere else, instead of won, and it will save you some money in the long run. As for myself, after a disastrous first attempt, I readjusted to the above strategy and was able to win 5 pretty cool items, though not the one thing I really wanted.
4 – There is a lot of porn. No one is really that shameless about it, which makes everything somewhat comfortable, but basic man law still applies. Weirdest thing to me was that I saw what looked like a Mom with what was maybe her 15 year old son in the same store, with the son in the doujinshi section, and the Mom elsewhere, until he needed her to foot the bill. Of course, that could also be a description for a different type of arrangement.
5 – Mandoka really says everything I need to say about cosplaying in the Akihabara, but, more generally, there weren’t as many cosplayers as I thought there would be, and I even went on Sunday. That’s not to say there weren’t any, but just not a lot, aside from all the maids. Two things that stood out to me was that it seemed like there was a unexpectedly high level of cross playing going on, but that might just have been due to the smallish sample size. Secondly, those who did cosplay, whatever it was, really seemed to embrace the concept of the Absolute Area, but really, it seems like a large percentage of Japanese women do.
6 – I spent way too much money for my own good. As a side effect of this turn of events, I have realized that my fascination with Tomoe Mami from MSMM has already passed the danger zone. Further, I am glad that I went during the last part of my trip, otherwise I would have spent even more.
7 – Put three English letters together, followed by a 48, and you will probably name a girl group in the area. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but there were at least three. Didn’t bother to see AKB48, and I don’t think I missed much either.
8 – While there are a bunch of reasons to call this the Anime holy land, the one thing I found most enjoyable, and was easy to kind of overlook after a while was that there was anime shows and music playing all the time in the stores. To actually go to a place where this isn’t that out of the ordinary is a little weird, but it was alos kind of relaxing in a way. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it was nice. Also, it was kind of weird, but it seemed like every arcade I went to was required by law to play music from Seitokai Yakuindomo. I enjoyed it, but it still seemed kind of random.
9 – Did not have the balls to go into a Maid Cafe, considering that I went by myself. Don’t know if I would have wanted to either, though I suppose I might have under the auspices of being ironic.
10 – If I have one complaint about Akihabara, and all of Japan really, is that it is impossible to find a trash can. I mean, you have all of these vending machines all over the place, but no trash cans. It gets annoying, as I spent a lot of time just looking for a trash can. It’s like all the trash cans are in secret locations that only Japanese could ever possibly know about. I understand that trash cans are a security threat, and considering Akihabara’s past it isn’t that big of a deal. A lot of other countries I have visited have this same “problem”, but what can you do. This is one reason I kind of miss America, the land of the easily found trash can.
11- Even though the new season is only three/four weeks old I found it amazing how much Yuru Yuri was getting plugged. I’ve only seen the first episode so far, as the only thing I’ve watched in Japan was Steins Gate (interesting side note on Steins Gate: I was in a cab in South Japan and there was a radio program talking about Steins Gate. The cabby was getting pretty emotional about what they were saying, to the point he was slamming his fist at one point. The guy looked like he was over 50. No clue what was said on the radio about Steins Gate, as I can’t really understand Japanese people talking when it isn’t programming for someone under 5), but back on point about Yuru Yuri, I thought the one episode I saw was pretty good. Still, it seems like it is all over. It kind of also seems like Idolmaster was the next most popular new series, merchandise wise, but it was hard to tell. Inexplicably, in my opinion, Infinite Stratos is all over the town. Its merchandise is everywhere. Once again, I assume this means it’s popular, but I suppose it could mean that the stores are overstocked with its merchandise. It’s hard to tell. Madoka and K-On are pretty popular as well.
13. Homura seems infinitely more popular than Madoka. Example: You put a Madoka shirt in a UFO drop table. No one plays it for a long time. Put a Homura shirt in, its gone in 5 minutes.
14. Didn’t bother going to the Tokyo Anime Center. It looked kind of lame from the outside, and it seemed like a tourist trap, but then again I suppose the same could be said about the arcades.
15. Anaru jokes are universal.