Thursday 18 April 2013

Adventures in Akihabara

Part of the work culture over here involves going out with your co-workers after a long day at the office and getting drunk (well, while getting drunk may not usually be the point of the exercise, it is, inevitably what happens).  It is not unusual at all to see people staggering around trying to find their train after a big night out (and this happens on weekdays too, so they have to make it back in to work the next day!).  It is not limited to the younger generation either.  I have seen both men and women in their 50's and 60's struggling after a big night.  It is not frowned upon as it is considered a quite acceptable way to unwind after a long day at the office.
Some of you may have seen a funny photo doing the rounds on facebook of a Japanese office worker (salary man) on a train after one of these big nights.  He has clearly gotten on to the train and thought (somehow) that he was back home already.  The photo shows him lying on the floor of the train in only his underwear and scattered around him are the rest of his clothes!  Well, about a month ago, some of the teachers from my school went out for a farewell party.  It turned out to be an all-nighter and when I woke up the next afternoon, my room resembled the photo of the salaryman.  My belt was in one corner, my trousers in another and my tie and shirt sitting in the middle of the room on the floor.  Later when I went to catch the train I realised that my headphones for my MP3 player were nowhere to be found!  I still have not found them, and I can only guess that I must have dispensed with them somewhere at some point during the night or morning as I was going home.  So I bought a cheap pair to keep me going until I get my first full pay (they pay monthly over here).  The cheap pair are really starting to get me down though as I love listening to music and any time I catch the train anywhere, i am usually listening to music, and the cheap headphones are spoiling the experience.  So I decided to head to a place called Akihabara which is an area filled with electronics stores where you can buy pretty much anything electrical you want.  It has also developed a subculture that caters to the manga (Japanese cartoons)/anime (Japanese animation) and porn market.  The place is filled with shops that have cartoon books and anime figures on the lower floors and the more seedy (or hentai) products on the upper floors.  Also a lot of "Maid Cafes" have opened up around the area, but more on that later!  But I was going to Akihabara for the electronics shops, honestly I was!
As you step out of the train station, you are immediately confronted by electronic stores as far as the eye can see.

The buildings are adorned with billboards advertising soon to be released anime, manga and also advertising what shops are in the buildings.  I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Now this is what a lot of people imagine Japan to look like, and it really does!

I saw this advertising board and couldn't help taking a picture.

Neither could the Japanese girl on the left.  She was riding along, saw the advertising and screeched her bike to a stop so she could take a photo.  It is actually advertising a male fragrance range and what is really cool about it is that where the girls are holding the bottles of fragrance, there is a small hole in the wall.  There is a motion sensor which detects when you put your hand, wrist (or armpit in my case) up against the hole and it then squirts some of the fragrance out at you!  As I was getting a squirt from the brunette, there was a Japanese guy and his girlfriend on the other side.  His girlfriend was covering his eyes and he was getting squirted in the face with the fragrance!!  He looked at me with a big grin on his face and said to me in English "Mmmm, nice smell"!  I had a great laugh at that!

A little further down the street there was a hobby shop with a huge model helicopter out the front.

It was huge and was probably nearly as big as my arm span!  Actually, the shop was only a hobby shop on the first couple of floors.  After that it turned into a "Adult amusement shop"

Anime is everywhere here.  Models in the shops, figures in the UFO catchers.  I don't know who or what any of these characters are, but they are photogenic!

And if you get hungry during your shopping trip to Akihabara, never fear, there are a lot of restaurants around, including Gorilla curry.

Before you start getting worried, I don't think they actually serve curry made from gorillas there.

Dan, who has joined me on some of my other adventures, had come along on this one too because he is the King of Akihabara (not the seedy side!).  He took me into a shop as I had told him I wouldn't mind seeing some Final Fantasy figures.  They didn't have much along those lines so we headed back downstairs.  Dan took the stairs and I took the elevator.  You can imagine my surprise as the doors of the elevator closed and I found this looking at me:

We walked into another building that had a number of different shops in it, including a book/dvd store.  A few of the aisles had these signs on the floor.

I promise I didn't.

Some of the other shops sold more traditional things.  There was a t-shirt shop there with some good shirts.

I liked this one.  Why not settle for second best?!

The next shop sold all kinds of figures (except the Final Fantasy ones!).

Back out we went and walked along to the next shop.  It happened to be a retro video games shop.

As you can see, not everything is Hi Tech here!

After having a bite to eat we sat down with an ice cream for desert.  Now, remember me mentioning maid cafes earlier?  What they are are cafes where you can go for a coffee and have a young lady dressed in a maids costume wait on you and pamper you.  She will call you "Master" to make you feel more important, and she will really take on the role of a servant.  Some of the maid cafes don't accept foreigners as the girls don't speak English, but some of the do and while we were eating our ice creams, I noticed a sign for one of them that was written in Japanese and English.

(Oh, I can just imagine the feminists reading this now.....!)

The maid cafes will typically send one or two of their maids out onto the street to hand out fliers and to try and get customers into their cafes.  One of them was talking to a couple of guys right next to us.  I don't know what the guys were saying to her, maybe giving her tips on how to better win over potential customers.  I can hear you asking yourself "Well did Jase take some photos of the maids?"  Well, unfortunately they don't like people taking photos of them (some do, but charge for it).  Fortunately I was able to turn off the flash on my phone and snap a couple of sneaky shots...

And one of her in action.

At night, a lot of shopping districts light up with neon lights and become quite spectacular.

Finally I was able to get around to my real reason for coming to Akihabara, the headphones.  The last photo above is of the massive electronics store we went into.  A lot of the headphones are available to try out.  You just plug your MP3 player in to try them out.  All different brands and price tags.  I put a lot of them through their paces and have nearly figured out which one I will buy when I go shopping for a new set.  As we were about to leave the store we saw this set of headphones:

That is a $1,000 set of headphones!!  The sound was incredible!!

Here is a shot of me listening to the headphones, lamenting the fact that I will never be able to afford them.

We left the store and headed back to the train station to make our way back home and as I was riding the escalator up to the train platform, Dan pointed out this sign that was stuck to the wall next to the escalators, obviously a warning to girls using the escalator to be aware of what the guy behind her is taking photos of.

And so another Tokyo adventure came to an end.  In case you were wondering, I am feeling a lot happier than I was in my last post.  I know and realise that people have to make sacrifices in their lives no matter what they do, and to be able to accept them is crucial to enjoying life.  I do accept that I have had to sacrifice some things close to me, but then if I didn't, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this and loving life.

Take care all, and see you again next week.


  1. Ah, finally! Akihabara! You have made my day. :) This will definitely be one of the first place I will visit when I head over there again. :) I will put some of my gaming mates onto this blog to show (as you have done) that not everything is high tech in Tokyo. They recognise the value of the older gaming systems too.
    The Akihabara Gamers sign is still the same, but the billboards above it are obviously different.
    Do you know if the guy in the picture on the first shirt famous? Or is it just an advertising picture.
    You do look rather distressed about not being able to get those headphones. :)
    Thanks again for the blog, mate. Every time I see a new one it puts a smile on my face.

    1. Hey Matty,
      I thought you would like this one!
      I think the guy in the photo is just the designer of the t-shirt. In the picture he is wearing one of the shirts. I don't recognise him, unless one of my Japanese readers can tell us?
      Man, the sound those headphones put out was just incredible! And they just had them sitting there for people to listen to!
      Looking forward to you being able to come over! Thanks for reading man, appreciate it.

  2. Hey Jase, can we control you like a web cam? I'm starting to get all sorts of ideas forming...

    1. I bet you are......... Kind of like real time huh?