Saturday, August 24, 2013

Akibahara Electric Town


What do you think of when you hear the word "Japan"? Is it sushi? Samurai? Karate?

For me and a lot of other people, it's anime. I grew up in California, and most youths in that state are exposed to a higher degree of Japanese anime and manga (cartoons and comic books, essentially) than somebody from, say, Iowa. I was no exception. Though I resisted the anime craze throughout my high school years, I started easing into it slowly thereafter, and now I'm a full-fledged nut. Why do you think I put a picture of the cast of up on this blog when I announced that I was leaving for Japan?

Every single one of these characters could mop the floor with you.

My visit to Tokyo wouldn't be complete without a stop at Akibahara (literally, "Field of Autumn Leaves"), located just north of the city center. It's world-renowned as a geek's Mecca jam-packed with electronics stores, shops full of anime figurines and DVDs, and pachinko parlors lit up like Vegas casinos.

A pachinko parlor in Akibahara. From

I probably should have gone to Akibahara at night. It didn't look so grand in the hazy daylight. Due to navigational error, I didn't penetrate into the very center of the Electric Town, as it's called. Instead I slunk around the edges and peeked into a few stores (including an awesome toy store with Godzilla figurines from, like, the '60s and '70s).

I also stepped into one of the pachinko parlors. This being Akibahara, almost all of the machines were anime-themed. I tried to snap a few pictures, but an employee caught me and signaled for me to knock it off. I did get one shot of this man-size statue of Unit 01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion in the entryway, though:

This means Shinji would probably be about the size of Tom Thumb.

, just so you know, is how the Japanese scratch their gambling itch. It's sort of a cross between pinball and slots. You sit down at a big shiny machine with a lot flashing lights, into which you shoot a bunch of balls. These then cascade down through dense clusters of pins. There are no flippers. If the balls go in certain directions, they may be "captured" and more balls may then be released. The more balls captured, the higher your score. Captured balls (no dirty jokes, please) can be exchanged for prizes.

I didn't play, but next time I will. And I won't bring a camera.

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous shots I took while wandering around Akibahara:

The view that greeted me as I exited the subway station.

I really should have checked that place out...

Should I be embarrassed that I know exactly what series those girls are from, if not their names?

K-ON!, Vocaloid, One Piece...this place is hitting all the right notes.

This was a display case outside that awesome toy shop I mentioned earlier. Batman Lego sets and plastic Godzilla enemy figurines. Geek heaven!

I was somewhat put out by the pachinko parlor incident, and that combined with the scorching heat soon drove me from the area. From there it was on to my next stop: SHIBUYA CROSSING.

But that's a story for tomorrow...
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