Akihabara was a very strange place. I don’t think I’ve ever quite felt an atmosphere like it before. Akihabara, or as signs all over will tell you, Electric Town is the home of otaku, gamers, and electronics. (Otaku: hardcore fans; often referring to fans of anime and manga.) There are two distinct styles visible in the area. The first is modern: tall glassy buildings, huge wide screen tvs, glass escalators with misters. The second feels not unlike what I imagine a market in India or South Africa to feel like. Tiny stores cram both their customers and all their stock in a six by six foot space. Electronics cords and adapters are thrown into plastic buckets while anime character merchandise hang from wire fencing on the walls and ceiling. There are small alleyways between the stores which turn walking into an experience in Minos’ Maze.
I unfortunately didn’t take any pictures of the small markets. It was too crowded to think at the time. I really like the expressions on these two people below. I caught them in the camera accidentally.
We did have fun in Akihabara. Our first stop after touring the main area was food. It’s always a nice break after the multiple intimidations of the crowds, sun , and general ignorance of the area. We stopped at a soba shop. I thought I disliked soba before but this was so good! It completely changed my mind.
View from our Soba shop including the Gundam Cafe below.
My food first: Katsudon (breaded pork and egg over rice) and cold soba noodles. Allen’s food: hot soba noodles and…I don’t remember what he got here. Some sort of Chirashai…raw fish…roe thing.
After satisfying our appetites and gathering our courage, we headed back out to the masses. We explored Don Quijote, a massive 8 floor building filled with arcades, a maid cafe, a performance theater for the wildly popular AK-B48 group, and levels upon levels of shopping. I say shopping but this does not explain what it was. You could buy anything from groceries to Stitch costumes to perfume to wide screen tvs to screwdrivers. It was insane.
On the way to Don Quijote…
These are snacks at Don Quijote. They really don’t look like it.
(Sorry. I should’ve taken pictures of Don Quijote and Mandarake but I think the crowds and noise just distracted me.)
Next we moved on to Mandarake, the self proclaimed largest store of anime and manga on Earth. It was big; another eight story building but I was a little disappointed. There was so much I didn’t recognize which is really saying something when you finish 2 anime series every week. It was packed full of figures and ancient toys. There were three floors dedicated to manga and doujinshi (fan manga) which most likely would’ve been a haven for me if I could read Japanese (T-T). Interestingly enough, the doujinshi were split onto two floors between male target audiences and female. You couldn’t really tell on the female floor until you noticed there was a higher percentage of pretty boys on the covers. Boy, you could totally tell on the male doujinshi floor though. Like two feet in. There were some pretty cool figures at Mandarake but they were hundreds of dollars.
Photos from Mandarake’s stairwell. They had some weird netting across the building.
In the area of Mandarake.
We then headed to perhaps one of my most anticipated sites in Japan: a cat cafe. We signed up for a 30 minute session, followed very strict hand washing instructions, ordered drinks and snacks for the cats, and finally were let into the area to play. The cats here were huge! I’m talking twice the size of Shen-Shen huge!! They were all mostly Maine Coons. I have no idea why. I feel I must check another cat cafe to compare results (hur hur). The cats mostly ignored us and didn’t actually like to be pet. I guess it made sense after the fact but I’m just so used to our cats. Anytime I pet one, it was like “Sigh. If you must…” It was definitely a different story when the cat treats (read: tuna) were delivered to us. Suddenly we were really popular. This one gray and white Maine Coon kept coming back for more. I was sad when we had to go and it made me really miss our cats.
Neighborhood outside the Jalala Cat Cafe.
Inside the cafe. Cat Census: 6.
Look at this guy’s chin!
Cats queuing for yummy treats from Allen.
After the Jalala Cat Cafe, we headed to get a snack at the Gundam Cafe. The interior was pretty rad. (Do people still use that word?) Apparently women are from Zeon and men are from the Federation, go figure. The women’s bathroom was completely red with a giant Zaku eye that flashed when you pressed the button. From Allen’s intel, the boy’s bathroom had giant Gundam eyes that flashed as well. Needless to say he was disappointed he didn’t get the Zeon one. (Ha ha.) I had the Gundam theme stuck in my head for hours after that.
Our Gundam themed deserts.
The women’s Zeonic bathroom equipped with glowing Zaku eye.
Gundam outside the restaurant.
Our last two stops in Akihabara were the giant Yodobashi Electronics store and Super Potato. Utilizing both the time honored communication method of pointing at something and a picture loaded of what we wanted on Amazon.com we were able to find the obscure cord we needed. Those attendants there seriously know their stuff. And they wear polkadots. Super Potato was a fun little store. It was three floors of retro video games and merchandise. I finally felt like I belonged. On the way back home we found a cool shrine and this long art piece illustrating ancient Tokyo.
Bonus: A warning sign on the railway. Comics are way of life. <3