Sunday, 30 November 2008

Akihabara, Tokyo

I'm lucky enough to be in Tokyo with work and have the weekend free for some exploring. I've never been to Japan before and come armed having recently read Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Fergusson. A Canadian who taught English in Japan and wrote a book of witty and insightful cultural observations. Before I left everyone told me that Japan was crazy. At least the book made me feel I had a small insight into some of the zaniness.


Akihabara is the first area of Tokyo that I explored, and fitted the stereotype of having tall and brightly coloured buildings. Also known as Electronic Town or Geek Town, the area is famous for otaku goods. Items for people with obsessive interests in animation, manga and electronics.

We spent a good hour wondering around the below arcade which was packed full of shops selling manga, second hand electronics and models of your favourite anime characters.

In virtually all of the book stores the comic books are wrapped in cellophane to stop you browsing. I've never really been into manga, but was keen to check out a few comics while I was in Japan.

When we were in one book shop I noticed the back corner had quite a few people hanging around and reading. At last some books I could check out! I strolled over and picked up one of the books to discover that it was manga porn. Pretty graphic for a comic book, but perfectly acceptable if that is your sort of thing. I'm sure people buy them for the "stories" and not the pictures. I flicked through another couple of books and in one the girls were very young and the second contained bestiality; I put them both down pretty quickly. I left the shop a bit shocked and repulsed.

Akihabara is also famous for maid cafes, were all of the waitresses dress up, predictably, as maids and call the guests "sir" or "master". More in line with the suggestion and titillation that I was expecting from Japan. We tried to find one of the many maid cafes in the back streets but drew a blank. One thing you'll quickly learn if you go to Japan is that their maps are utterly confusing.

1 comment:

  1. I was in Japan for work a few years back. Never felt quiet so foreign. Our Japanese work colleagues took us out to an hostess bar where Japanese women fawn over you, tell you how great and interesting you are and keep filling your glass with whisky. Got VERY drunk, worse of all they look fine next morning for our meetings whereas me and my boos looked decidedly green.

    And yes, did find some of their *ahem* reading material disturbing.

    Still the food was great so I'll forgive them their eccentricities!

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