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Misadventures in Akiba, Part 1
by Evan Miller on Wed Mar 26, 2008 10:50 am
On Thursday, our very own Justin Sevakis arrived in Tokyo for the first time. Knowing that Justin was worn out by the journey, on Friday I did what any good friend would do:

I took him to Akihabara. Besides, what better place to get over jet lag than the land of maid cafes and electronic shops with really low ceilings?

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Evan, that was a mean thing to do to poor Justin. He's tired, and you should let him sleep in." Yes, you are right that it would have been the so-called "nice" thing to do, but for the record, Justin really wanted to go, and I really didn't have the heart to remind him that jet lag a really rough experience. So, after a quick breakfast at Jonathan's, we headed to the otaku capital of the world to do some shopping and exploring.

For those of you who have never been, it is worth noting that Akihabara offers two very different experiences. One is the big, fan-focused stuff that gives the area its image: maid cafes, giant shopping complexes, and flashy game centers that are found in the center of the neighborhood. The other is made up of smaller stores that usually focus on electronics or really obscure used manga, anime and character goods; most of these stores are found in the back alleys of the area. Akihabara's main road is lined with most of the big name stores that make the area famous: Gamers, Tora no Ana, Animate and so on. These stores are worth visiting for the experience alone, but I have to be honest with you: these places aren't cheap. If you do the majority of your shopping here, be prepared to spend a ton. If you're on a budget, the smaller places offer far cheaper prices, but a lot of them also specialize in adult dōjinshi and hentai. In other words, if you're the kind of person who's easily offended by that sort of thing, proceed with caution.

Our first stop was one of my favorite Akiba destinations: the small alleyways between the buildings outside the station exit, also known as My Way. This is a great place to find a lot of weird obscure things - figures, cards, and every kind of wire/gadget you could dream of. Unfortunately, due to the environment of the place, you might have to walk past a bunch of weird-looking naked figurines as you do your shopping. If that's your kind of thing, you'll be thrilled - but if you're like me, you might get tired of looking at oversized plastic boobs after a while. After doing a little shopping, we headed back towards Akihabara's drag: a giant 4-lane road that lies just west of Akihabara station.

After wandering through some of the local electronics stores, we wandered into a game center. Akihabara's game centers are much like those in other cities: giant complexes with multiple floors that each offer different things. Since we were feeling lucky, I tried to rescue a hamster from captivity within one of the crane machines on the first floor. As you can see, I failed... but I'll be back.

The place where we spent the most time is a chain of stores scattered around the area known as Liberty. One of the most well-known guides to Akiba from the 1990s mentioned that Liberty is one of the best places to find obscure stuff, and I'm happy to say that nothing has changed. Among all of the popular titles, you can find old-school laserdiscs, out-of-print anime soundtracks, and thousands of old Famicom (the Japanese version of what Nintendo would re-brand the "Nintendo Entertainment System" in North America) games. There's also a bunch of odd graffiti (like this). We spent most of our time here searching for old stuff, and we certainly didn't come out empty-handed: we walked out of this place with 3 giant shopping bags of stuff.

After all that, we decided to call it a day, but don't worry - we'll be back in Akihabara later during the trip, so keep checking back here for more!
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