April 22, 2009


The name Akihabara translates as 'field of autumn leaves', but there are few trees in sight in this busy neighbourhood just a short ride north of Tokyo Station. Akihabara (or Akiba for short) is famous around the world as Electric Town ~ the place to go in Tokyo for electrical goods.
Many of the big name stores such as Yodabashi Camera, Sofmap and LAOX are here as well as a host of smaller independent stores.

The area is also famous as a haven for otaku (geeks) into games, anime and cosplay, with plenty of shops catering to those customers.
Since it's featured in almost all of the guide books to Japan, it's also one of the areas in Tokyo that has one of the highest concentration of foreign tourists all on the hunt for bargains, though with the exchange rate as it is at the moment, I suspect that they are hard to come by at the moment.
Near the station there is a maze of smaller retailers dealing in all kinds of goods ranging from cheap memory sticks and mobile phone parts to metres and metres of cable and spy cameras. Literally something for everyone when it comes to electrical goods.
The otaku culture has seen the rise of the maid cafe and with Akihabara being the birth place of these establishments, it's only natural that the area should cash in by producing maid omiyage (souvenirs) such as cookies and chocolates.
Some guy eyeing up a maid costume in a shop window.
Prime Minister Taro Aso is a self-confessed manga freak and so he is feted in the area as a 'cool old dude' with his cartoon likeness visible in several places.
The maid culture goes beyond the simple cafe. Here we have a 'maid opticians', presumably where the staff all wear maid costumes, but unfortunately it was shut on the day I was there so I can't say for sure.
Lots of shops sell cute but somewhat near the mark figurines for collectors, a snip at just 500 yen.
This building is a 'live house' for performance by plastic sounding girl groups who are unknown beyond the otaku world. The singers perform saccharine sweet pop-dance songs over tinny backing tapes and the fans go wild with their own unique dance routines. It's quite unlike anything you can see anywhere else.
A maid touting for customers.

Even the Prime Minister comes in for the omiyage treatment.
Pink-clad maids on the street.
The Kanda river as seen from close to the station.

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