itchy feet cravings · just curious

Akihabara: Tokyo’s e-town

  If you want to score for some cheap electronic finds, head to Akihabara while in Tokyo. When I had the opportunity to visit Japan, Akihabara (or Akiba) was part of the itinerary. Aptly called Tokyo’s electronic town, it is home to robotics, big appliances, micro and macro gadgets, the latest handheld PDA, laptops, otaku and manga. Truly, I am not a geek but I do want to buy a PDA that can be useful. That’s why I looked forward to visiting this town just to get a glimpse of the Japanese technology culture. We met our tour guide just after disembarking from the subway. She first gave us a brief lecture on the history of Akihabara. Who would have thought that historically, this town is known as the “field of autumn leaves.”  Because when we toured this town on foot, you’d practically be boggled by its environment. From being a huge flat empty land, over the years, it transformed to become Tokyo’s “futuristic city.”

our tour guide in Akihabara giving us a briefing after stepping out of the subway

After giving us a brief history of the place, we proceeded to walk around. If you’re going here for the first time, you’d better wear sensible shoes. Good thing I was able to buy a good pair at a department store in Ginza just hours before we arrived here. My feet is starting to ache from wearing boots. Going through the streets of this electronic town made me a little dizzy. It made me think of a techno-craze mega-city that’s a one-stop shop for computer hardware, PC games, latest machines,  otaku  which are all typical of the J-pop culture.

gadgets on display

It is also said to be the birthplace of what J-pop culture is famous for: cosplay or costume-play. At the time of our walking tour, we got a peek of these maid cafes where some cutesy girls dressed up in maid costumes are giving out leaflets. For anime enthusiasts, I’m pretty sure they’d go gaga when they visit this place. I’m not a fan, so my views on Akihabara are pretty neutral. From what I heard, even Hollywood filmmakers hie off to Akihabara to shop for “weaponry” for action or martial arts film. That’s not surprising at all after seeing these things at one of the shops.                           However, walking along the streets of Akihabara, one finds another facet of this e-town. We chanced upon a tiny Shinto shrine where Japanese businessmen frequents to pray for success in their business. We decided to stop by…     and pay some respect…   But this isn’t just what we found in Akihabara… We walked some more and found a quaint spot where it was said the best chopsticks maker can be found in Japan. We walked inside the shop and found a wonderful array and variations of chopsticks.   No wonder this shop makes the chopsticks being used by the Imperial Family. They were also recognized as the one who also made a chopsticks for the late Princess Diana when she visited Japan.  

posing for pics with the shop manager

Afterwards, we decided to split. Some of us were so keen on buying a laptop and a trusted digicam. I, however, decided to cap off my Akihabara tour dining at a restaurant nearby with my friend from Laos.

Despite increased competition from crowded hubs in Tokyo like Shinjuku and Shibuya, I believe Akihabara will still stand up to its reputation as  a venue and a center of activity for all geeks and tech-savvy enthusiasts. 🙂

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