Day 3 - Febuary 14, 2010
Looking back now, the complete sentence should have read: マイルズはばかです "Mairuzu wa baka desu" or "Miles is an idiot."
Top: マイルズ "Mairuzu". Bottom: ばか "Baka". Literally "Miles is an idiot!".
Miles and I, venturing forth from my apartment into the bright japanese outside.
We had some big plans for today! It was time for me to step into the otaku mecca, Akihabara, which is commonly referred to as "Akiba". This wonderful place is full of everything related to anime, manga, video games, and their respective subcultures(such as cosplay, retrogaming, and doujinshi).
View on Google Maps - The walk from my apartment to Akihabara.
I chose my apartment due to the close proximity of several things:
1: Walking distance to a JR Yamanote train staion (Kanda Station).
2: Tokyo station for the shinkansen.
3: Akihabara! It's only a ten minute walk north to Akihabara, so Miles and I decided to just walk it, instead of another one-stop train ride.
Walking across the river that divides Kanda and Akihabara, I catch my first glimpse of Akihabara.
Shortly after World War II, Akihabara acquired the nickname "Akihabara Electric Town" for being a major shopping center for household electronics and the post-war black market. In the 1980s, when electronic goods saw a decline in popularity, Akiba started to shift focus to computers and hobbyist products. This brought a surge of computer nerds or "otaku", which further shifted the focus towards anime, manga, and video games. Thus the otaku cultural center was born. Some otaku consider Akihabara to be a sacred place.
Hehe, I wonder if that guy is eyeing me... Gaijins tend to draw lots of attention ^^;
I had seen many photos and videos of Akihabara on the internets, but actually walking through it was surreal. It really was the otaku mecca I had dreamed of. First things first, let's explore some shops related to anime and games!
In one of the first shops we visited, I found some figures from two of my favorite anime series: Air and Clannad! Off to a great start :3
One of the otaku related hobbies is the collecting of figures from various anime, manga, and video games. The term "figure" can refer to dolls, statues, and other figurines and collectables. I decided not to buy these yet, as I figured -_- I'd find better ones later. As it turns out, I should have bought the Misuzu figure from Air then and there, as I never did find another Air figure during my stay. Hindsight.
Lord of Vermilion, One of the popular CCG arcade games at the time. It was made by one of my favorite game developers, Square Enix.
Arcades are as popular as ever in Japan. Massive, multi-level "Game Centers", full to the brim with video games, mechanical games, and prize-based redemption and luck-based skill games; all revolving around the otaku pop culture.
Shining Force Cross, another popular arcade game which Miles and I played quite a few times. You get a card that lets you log in with your account, and continue where you left off.
Arcades (and most stores in Japan for that matter) are full of Gacha Gacha machines. Just pop in 100-300 yen, turn the crank, and out comes a little toy or figure.
Miles, and our newly acquired addiction to Shining Force Cross.
Miles and I spent several hours and several thousand yen in the arcade. Time and money well spent!
Man, that camera angle. This is here for the arcade soundscape more than anything else.
Having enough of the noisy arcade, we just walked around for a while, simply exploring and taking it all in.
A perfectly aligned row of bicycles. Note the complete lack of bike locks. Japan is a very safe environment, even in the big cities.
We found ourselves exploring an incredibly large department store, Yodobashi-Akiba.
The computer level in Yodobashi-Akiba. Laptops everywhere!
Yodobashi is a large chain of electronics department stores in Japan. The Yodobashi store in Akihabara, immediately next to JR Akihabara station, is eight stories tall (plus some basement levels). Each level is dedicated to a specific technology, such as the computer level, the TV and entertainment level, the audio and musical instruments level, and many others. This is currently the largest electronics store in Akihabara.
Left: Characters from One Piece. Right: R2 creeping Konata Izumi from Lucky☆Star
With anime and manga being ever-popular in Japan, it's no surprise that Yodobashi has anime DVDs, BluRays, and figures, especially since it's located in Akihabara.
This was my first glimpse of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki merchandise. This was very exciting at the time, but little did I know just how much more was in store for me; from Ghibli stores and cafés across Japan, to the magical Ghibli Museum that awaited me at the end of my trip.
A DVD set of Air.
The anime section was almost as large as the movie section itself! This was during the transition period when anime was making it's way from DVD to Blu-ray, so even though I found many DVDs that I wanted, I was holding out for the latter. I didn't end up buying any though, as I require english subtitles. ;P
FFXIII and a Haruhi Suzumiya themed game!
Video games! I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan. I've beat them all, multiple times, completionist style. Final Fantasy XIII was slated for release in Canada during my stay in Japan. It had already been out for a while in Japan by this time, and I was very excited to see it in person! (I didn't know it would end up being a horrible game, and was very disappointed upon my return to Canada...)