Day 2 – our first full day in Japan!
What other way to celebrate this momentous occasion on our first full 24 hours than to visit the Disneyland of Anime; Akihabara! (‘Akiba’ will be used from here on because typing out the long name is a pain).
Akiba was exactly what I had imagined it after seeing it depicted in countless anime and manga for 10+ years as well as seeing snippets of real Akiba from live footage from news and travel videos. Akiba was one of the most fascinating places to visit out of my time in Japan.
One of the things that struck me which has been rarely mentioned is the considerable amount of foreigners roaming about in Akiba. It makes sense naturally if I think about it as it is a tourist destination; everywhere I went I would always see the one or two non-Asian people walking about speaking in various languages. Another thing I realised is how reserved the Japanese people are; from the arcades to the shops they rarely show much emotion or reaction and go about their routine without any fuss; which makes me realise how much there is of a disconnect of this idealised liberal vision of Akiba depicted in anime compared to reality.
Pachinko Parlors. I can’t ever see myself sitting in these places for hours on end with the extremely loud and agonising ball clacking noise. Once the automatic doors opened we were greeted with audio shockwaves as our eardrums were succumbed with the worst kind of ASMR metal ball noise. We walked inside a couple of parlors around Akiba just to see why these things are all the rage in Japan; deadpan salarymen with cigarettes in mouth staring into their pachinko machines; pulling the lever and pressing the big button in the center of the machine like clockwork as metal balls come and go flowing through the cabinet. It felt like we stepped into a dystopian world.
It was also interesting to come across and visit places in Akiba rarely to never depicted in anime/manga; independent shops selling and reselling second-hand anime goods and figurines and even placing “bounties” on certain figures that will fetch a high price if exchanged and even the tacky tourist souvenir shops with one situated on the main street in Akiba!
The shops in Akiba (and all of Japan really) are all tightly packed along the main street and the tall yet compact buildings you see outside aren’t just for show; these shops have around 8 or so floors to explore with each floor dedicated to a particular theme of product. With so many floors you’re better off catching the lift to avoid tiring yourself out from climbing the never-ending staircases; heck some shops provide you a lift only meaning it was sometimes a total nightmare to get yourself out of the place having to wait for other people to get where they want to go (they probably so have stairs but for staff only).
Even though prior I was warned from various peeps who said not to spend a full day in Akiba because you’ll tire and burn yourself out… we ended up spending the whole day in Akiba and ‘kind of’ burned ourselves out. It wasn’t that harsh as I thought it’d be as the only real thing that burned us out was that we kept seeing the same stuff over and over again as we visited one anime store to another. While my initial plan was to spend half a day in Akiba the rest elsewhere, it was hard to leave as there was always things to see and do and before you know it it’s already 6pm! After the couple of times we re-visited later in the trip to cover more ground we only ever really scratched the surface!
I think the main thing to be wary of other than burning yourself out in Akiba is to pace yourself to avoid being overwhelmed. Personally I was overly excited but also overwhelmed once I entered Akiba, like the opening scene in Love Live! Sunshine!! with Chika and You in Akiba. Seeing all the buzz around me; from the giant anime advertisements plastered on every building, cute maids standing along the sidewalks handing out flyers and getting ignored, loudspeakers blasting out Love Live! Sunshine!! tracks on an endless loop felt like I was drowning balls deep in anime. Much like the feeling of wanting to play a game but the sheer amount in your collection puts you off from choosing one to play, it was difficult to decide what to do first even as I had a cluster of places starred on Google Maps on my phone to visit.
Finally making the pilgrimage to Akiba has confirmed and clarified many of my conceptions of the place while more importantly has enlightened me an objective and unfiltered perspective compared to the distorted idealised depictions in media. Visiting second hand shops like Mandarake made me realise how cheap anime merchandise can actually be compared to the high prices I’ve been paying through online shops with its respective murderous shipping rates. Seeing anime merchandise being dumped in “bargain bins” in places like Lashinbang like fodder; for better or for worse devalued my view of anime goods; the thing that has always been stupidly inflated in price and shallowly justified by its quality and rarity from a Western perspective, to be devalued to something that can be found in a reduced to clear aisle in a supermarket hitted me pretty hard. This sub industry of reselling of mass anime goods (as well as doujinshi shops, but I’ll expand on that in a later post) was something that can only exist in Japan (I say ‘anime’ goods but this applies also to manga, games, electronics, and anything in between, there just isn’t a good blanket word to cover everything…).
Akiba all in all was a wonderful place to visit and is naturally a must-go if you’re a anime nerd. Just remember to stay chill and avoid feeling overwhelmed with everything.
But anyhow on with the pics!
Warning: This post contains some minor NSFW photos.
– One does
not simply walk into Akiba –
Ate some of the stuff I bought from the supermarket the day before for breakfast! Japanese Mayo on bread is a godsend.
Walking to the station on yet another
agonising hot sunny day!
The Sumida ward is a very quite area from morning to night, aside from the minor caveat you have to be really quiet at night it was a peaceful place to stay.
The legendary “Tomare!” stop sign!
More vending machines!
This one’s been scribbled on.
One thing I love about Japan is how even the trash is neatly organised.
Stackable car parks!
Passed by a dry cleaning place!
On the way to Ryogoku Station we walked past by our first Book Off! Book Off is a second hand store which sells used goods from video games and DVDs to magazines and books and even household items. It’s the No.1 port of call to grab hold of obscure/old games and manga at a low price most of the common stuff only costing 108 yen (less than £1!).
Because Japanese people also generally keep their things in pristine condition most of the second hand stuff there are as good as new! Meanwhile I wonder how some of the damaged beyond repair stuff I see on the shelves at CeX in England are even allowed to be sold…
Nisekoi! Shame I already have most of the Japanese volumes buying them all from JP Books in London and online.
Nearly everything in the store was plastic-wrapped! I was beginning to realise how much plastic Japan loves to burn through. Xbox consoles as you can see on the lowest shelf in the photo above are a rarity in Japan.
The manga tankobons here are organised by the magazines they were serialised in. Young Jump and Morning Comics are shown in the above photo.
Shonen Jump manga! You can literally buy Naruto manga tankobons for around 70p a pop.
Books about how to make BLT sandwiches.
The latest Idolmaster game!
Hayate no Gotoku! and Ad Astra Per Aspera! I regret not buying these two volumes on the spot… ;_;
Just a note for people hunting for stuff in Book Off – if you find an obscure thing you want and feel you should wait around a bit before buying; ignore your inner thoughts and just get it. I did this for a couple of items that I thought I’d find else where in other Book Off stores in Tokyo but I was unable to find them or that I forgot altogether before it was too late.
Only in Japan is where the Vita is alive and well.
Endless aisles of books, with the cheapest book fodder costing only 100 yen (plus 8% tax so in reality 108 yen)!
Japan is very chill on its public display of porn in shops and I didn’t realise how extremely lenient it was after coming here. This hentai section in Book Off was covered by a thin piece of cloth that anyone can look through; printed on the cloth a message telling customers this was a 18+ restricted area.
After realising we spent too much time in Book Off it was time to get back on track and head to Akiba!
Neatly stored boxes in someone’s garage.
Crossed a footbridge to snap a shot of this! It’s so rare in England to have long straight flat roads so seeing an actual vanishing point in real life was so strange.
Some message board.
I wish for a day in the distant future where I wake up in these apartments realising I’m late for work as a salaryman.
Layers and layers of eateries and pubs just opposite of Ryogoku Station.
Ramen joint near Ryogoku Station!
A Matsuya underneath Ryogoku Station!
Subway stations in Tokyo have their own codenames on the map, for example; Akihabara’s code is “H-15” where H means it’s on the Hibiya trainline and 15 means it is the 15th stop on said line.
For us to get to Akihabara we could take the Shinjuku Line from Kikukawa to Iwamotocho Station; which is the most convenient because Kikukawa station only 4 minutes away from our apartment by foot. However a quick Google Maps search estimated the cost would be higher than taking the JR Line from Ryogoku directly to Akihabara Station; the caveat being Ryogoku Station was a 20 minute walk away from our base. I found journeys on the JR Line are generally cheaper than the subway counterpart but it’s worth checking on journey apps to find the lowest rates.
We decided we wanted to go to the actual Akihabara Station from Ryogoku Station, even though we had to trek a bit to the station it was a good opportunity to cover ground in the area!
So we hopped on the JR train heading into Akiba but then discovered the train wouldn’t run for another half hour for reasons we couldn’t understand because we can’t into Japanese…
A search on Google Maps and then some help from Twitter found that a “human incident” occurred on the rail line which held us up…
We had nothing else to do but stand around and wait for the train to run again.
BanG Dream advertisement!
We were edging near Akiba so the anime ads began to crop up everywhere!
Love Live! School Idol Festival advertisement!
Crossing over the river into Akiba!
You wouldn’t believe how excited I was from just looking at anime advertisements in the station! It’s one of my biggest dreams come true to finally set foot into Akiba! It was like going to Disneyland for the very first time all over again. I’m usually bad at explaining how I feel but in this occasion I was absolutely certain this was one of the best moments of my life.
The UDX building! Known for being A-RISE’s HQ in Love Live! and that place where Kirino watched that Meruru PV in Oreimo!
A tourist info booth! A good place to start out in Akiba because it offers maps and info in various languages on what you can do in the area if you’re feeling lost!
There was also an Osomatsu-san event happening nearby which explains all the girls and their itabags walking around.
Inside the Tokyo Anime Center Official Shop!
The pathway towards UDX with Yodabashi Akiba in the distance, an electronics department store.
Outside the legendary Akihabara Station!
SEGA arcade nearby was blasting out mad Love Live! Sunshine!! Aqours tunes just opposite to the west entrance of Akiba station so my body just naturally gravitated towards it.
I wanted to take these fabric scrolls back with me.
Love Live! Sunshine!! was airing over the Summer 2016 season so it made sense to see loads of marketing of Aqours all over Akiba.
Smol Aqours plush key chains!
Signed Riko cardboard cutout!
Ah yes those message boards where you can contribute write a message and stick it to the wall.
I forgot what the 😂 emoji looked like lmao.
Moar Love Live! Sunshine!! merch.
Tokyo 7th Sisters! Played a bit of the mobage before and looking forward to the anime coming out soon!
I was real tempted to try and bag a Tippy plushie but I know I’m going to be sucked into the scam. Watching other people throw away their change to try to win at these was enough.
Saber figure #12,403,483.
There are several floors in the SEGA arcade, the second and third floors being chock full of music rhythm games; my kind of jam.
I gave Crossbeats Rev Sunrise a whirl playing through some anime theme songs they had!
Kekkai Sensen’s ED theme song “Sugar Song to Bitter Step” from Unison Square Garden was the one song I keep seeing featured in this arcade.
It was my first time playing after seeing many people I know playing it in the past and mildly embarrassed myself by choosing to play and fail at the harder difficulties. At least the song played until the end and not publicly shame me mid-song.
There are cameras on each of the cabinets that records you playing which you can post online but you need one of the arcade membership cards to do it.
Git gud son
Some daimyo game.
Project Diva arcade!
I wanted to have a go on it but there was a line you have you have to wait in for your turn, plus I probably wouldn’t have any idea what to do and it seems like you need a deck of cards to play.
Board advertisement for a maid cafe nearby! I was too scared to go to one in the end because I got influenced by one of my friends warning me they’ll suck my wallet dry if I stepped in…
Monogatari advertisement on the window panes just outside the train station! It was real hard trying to snap a pic without any people around.
One of the iconic street shots of Akiva with the giant Onoden electronics store sign in the distance.
Came across this card game shop selling overpriced foiled card an upwards of £5000.
Hueg anime advertisements just above Gamers. Oh, and also a giant Chika.
Evangelion! If I recall correctly this was an advertisement for the new pachinko game.
Dummy food displays are a staple in every Japanese eatery which is very handy for foreigners who can’t read the menu!
Rack of C90 guidebook the size of a telephone book just by the entrance of Akihabara Gamers; a big anime and manga store and one of main strongholds for Love Live! goods!
The guidebooks are for anyone wishing to attend the 90th Comic Market at the Tokyo Big Sight from the 12th to the 14th of August 2016 (which I’ll cover in a later post!). The book has info on every (registered) artists with their contact info and where they’ll be situated in the event. It also includes a handy map of the place along with the table codes where respective artists will be located.
I wanted to get one but I felt it would have destroyed my luggage weight allowance.
It was Honoka’s birthday recently so they had a mini Honoka shrine inside Gamers with a bunch of promotion to Love Live! related stuff.
Dozens of Manga Time magazines!
Kizumonogatari’s presence was everywhere with the recent release of the first part of the movie on blu-ray (on 27th July; my birthday!) along with the second part about to be released at the time!
Some Amanchu! / Re:Zero / Splatoon / Monogatari merch.
The lift in Gamers had BanG Dream plastered over the door!
This was when I first learnt you’re not supposed to take things you got from one floor to another because the security alarm rang as I took Love Live! Sunshine!!‘s OP single to the second floor (which I was planning to buy but wanted to look around first) and a staff member came up to me and took it off my hands. He warned me about not being allowed to take things to another floor and also not to take photos and drink because I had my camera around my neck and a water bottle in my other hand so clearly I am now a banned customer of Gamers. And when I said he told me he kind of did in Japanese but I didn’t actually understand what he was trying to say until he point at a sign on the wall which clarified those points.
In multi-leveled stores like Gamers you’re supposed to purchase your things on the floor you got them in and the clerk will tape up your bag with the items inside after it’s been purchased so you’re free to walk around safely.
New Game! was another series being heavily marketed with the first batch of episodes practically being played on loop on the promotional displays.
I wanted to take this home.
Manga tankobons galore in the upper levels of Gamers.
Browsing around the endless aisles of manga was also a good opportunity to scout around looking for new manga to pick up reading~
So much paper!
Found this August issue of Monthly Shonen Sunday with Takagi-san on the front cover awkwardly sticking out on the shelves. This was also the moment that made me pick up the manga to read once I got home!
Love Live! Sunshine!! display!
Kumamiko, Bakuon and Macross Delta merch!
I was still triggered by Kumamiko’s ending at the time…
The infamous dakimakura corner.
Giant long wall of Love Live! CD singles and albums!
Excuse the rather strange framing in some photos like this one because they were sneakily shot without me looking through the viewfinder because most shops in Akiba don’t allow photography.
One shop I recommend visiting if you’re feeling rather
horny liberal is this one shop on the main street called Lammtarra. Without beating around the bush; Lammtarra is essentially an eight or so storied store (I forgot how many floors exactly but it was just too much) specialising in pornographic AVs; and the taste of the AVs become nicher and nicher as you go up each floor (once you walk up to the floor featuring bestiality I suggest that being the perfect time to leave). The store is extremely narrow leaving just enough space for one person along the aisle with dozens of mini display screens with sound previewing AVs on full blast, making it feel like you’re walking into a giant orgy. I forgot to take photos inside because of just how surreal it felt inside. I didn’t buy anything from there, honest!
Traders! One of the many stores scattered all around Akiba selling second hand goods.
Selector Infected Wixoss and ReLIFE gracing the giant storefront of Sofmap, an electronics store.
I spot a Vita!
Limited edition blu-ray box sets everywhere.
Gacha machines! Real nice that they always provide a bin for you to discard the plastic capsules.
Was in the Animate store to take this sneaky pic of Illya!
They had Aoba’s workspace set up in the event space in Animate! It was such a surprise to suddenly coming across it after seeing a photo of it with Aoba’s VA retweeted on my Twitter timeline. Obviously no photos were allowed but I managed to discreetly snap this shot at waist height.
Keyframe of Prisma Illya alongside the respective anime blu-rays and music discs.
Love Live! is olev.
Saw this talking tin can outside the entrance to Don Quijote in Akiba!
I really wanted this splatgun from Splatoon but it was impossible to take back home unless I shipped it back…
Just when I thought I’d gotten used to oppai mousepads.
Love Live! Sunshine!! display in Don Quijote playing out the live sequences from the anime rather loudly on the TV display.
Bought a giant bottle of Kirin Lemon from Don Quijote as I was getting dehydrated from the heat~
Some outside shots of Akiba!
Guts taking hold of the main Welcome to Akihabara display board.
I may or may not have taken this photo because of Harambe…
Exclusive Aqours metal container for your tissue box to use for the final Love Live! Sunshine!! episode ;__;
Please save these snuggled sleeping Pikachus.
Kotobukiya! Everything was expensive.
Came across Cafe Mailish! The cafe Fayris worked in Steins;Gate!
The (back) entrance to Kanda Shrine!
Kanda Shrine is the beloved Shinto shrine popular among otakus due to its close proximity to Akiba and how Love Live! conquered the shrine with Nozomi acting as its mascot.
We were planning to enter Kanda Shrine up the main stairs featured in the original Love Live! anime where the µ’s squad had trained but because of some confusion on Google Map’s navigation we ended up at the back entrances to the shrine with some agonisingly loud circadas.
The Kanda Shrine’s honden! The head honcho building in the block.
Anime emas at Kanda Shrine, which are wooden plaques with wishes written on them that have become an otaku hotspot due to well known anime artists contributing their emas with their dazzling illustrations.
Had a sat down in the shrine after walking around all day. We also made our prayers at the honden throwing in some loose change and also getting our fortune!
Found the Hackadolls hanging around as we came back to the main street in Akiba.
Had some gyudon noms at Akiba’s Yoshinoya!
Love Live Sunshine!! cut out board on the escalators in Lashinbang!
Came across this ingenious UFO game where instead of grabbing the prize with the claw you control the catcher with a box cutter knife attached at the end and have it cut through the paper ring hanging the prize!
We saw a couple of people successfully cutting through the paper and winning the prizes so the knives are pretty dang sharp…
We walked around Akiba a bit more in the evening before we called it day and went back to the apartment.
A good time to snap some Akiba night pics!
Seeing all the lights lit all over Akiba is a sight to behold and it really makes the place feel so alive at night.
Saying goodbye to giant Chika as we hop on the JR train back home.
Came across these playthings in the park in our neighbourhood.
Sumida at night, very quiet!
My haul from the day~
I was being frugal as I wanted to save some cash for Comiket later down the week.
I didn’t have my own cup to drink from (aside from a bottle) for this trip and after finding a dirt cheap Love Live! Rin glass cup earlier from Lashinbang (it was 108yen, so around 70p!) I thought this would fit the bill!
Until the next post!