Yup, that’s a Gundam Cafe and next to it the official AKB48 Cafe & Shop For the uninitiated, Gundam is a popular mecha manga/anime/videogame franchise and AKB48 is the biggest (literally) girl group (literally) in Japan. And both cafes had long lines outside.
Akihabara maybe the home to otaku/nerd/geek culture, but there are plenty of offices around
When I reached the main road, I just stood there with a smile An area with so many videogames, anime, gadgets… couldn’t believe such a place exists, but hey, I’m finally in Akihabara!
I was tempted to enter Club Sega, but I turned around instead
This was a complex of stores selling spare parts, electrical components and retro gadgets
Definitely a place for electronics hobbyists
I just wonder how many still build stuff from scratch in the days of easy consumption
I crossed over to the main hub of Akihabara district
There were so many enticing buildings, but I had to get around quickly
I knew it was time for lunch, but I somehow thought I’d finish walking around Akihabara first
Lot’s of girls trying to entice men (mostly) to enter maid cafes
A few stores had street sales but I didn’t find all the prices as low as they were claiming it to be
Most computer stores look like this and advertise product prices as such
This is the famous Kotobukiya store
Kotobukiya is a popular retailer and manufacturer of licensed collectible toys, model kits and other merchandise
Kotobukiya is five floors of anime, video game, and manga pop culture goodness (Floor guide)
I wasn’t familiar with some of the anime and manga
I went to the 4th floor to check out the action figures and model kits
It was pretty awesome to see some of the figures!
It’s not just Japanese characters too. You got Western pop culture favourites too, but the figures are mostly created by Japanese companies
Like these really detailed limited edition collectibles based on the Transformers movies. Super expensive too!
But you still have famous Japanese characters, like Ultra Man and Gojira
Lot of models from the Metal Gear Solid games
Really wanted one of these Raiden figurines, but a lot of the models on display have already been sold out
These mecha were from the Armored Core videogames. Awesome, aren’t they?
The 5th floor is an event space for exhibitions and live events
I left Kotobukiya after realizing I spent too much time in there
Animate is a large manga and anime store
Maid cafes are all over Akihabara
I was checking out prices for SSD and laptop hard drives. Prices weren’t that much lower than what it costs back in India.
I wanted to spend more time in Akihabara today, but i knew I was going to be back here towards the end of journey
It was already well past what is considered ‘lunchtime’ so I had to eat something, but where? There weren’t too many restaurant options in Akihabara and so where did I end up for my first lunch in Japan?
McDonalds. I know. But I didn’t want to spend time wondering where and what to eat when it was already late. So I had a prawn burger meal, costs ¥650 (Rs.350/$5/€4)
As I sat above and ate my meal, I noticed a stage show going on across the road
I had to check it out. It looked like some teenage DJ playing some tunes and her fans were doing co-ordinated dances.
There was another stage show happening further up ahead for the same promotion. It was for something called Feather. I don’t know if it was an anime, manga, or a video game? But still, funny to watch otakus dance in solitude with so much fervour
And they had all these girls dressed in white sweaters and tartan skirts giving away pamphlets and buttons
I made a quick visit to the Tokyo Anime Center
You can get free maps of Akihabara, guidebooks and even hire English-speaking tour guides from here
Besides that they also sell merchandise and souvenirs at this store
I didn’t feel like leaving Akihabara just yet, so I walked around some more
I entered Trader, another popular Akihabara store. Trader, as the name suggests, specializes in second hand video games and DVDs. That said, you do get the latest stuff on the ground floor.
The upper floors are where the real gems are. Old games, all neatly packed, from the previous generation of consoles. Sega Dreamcast, NES, PlayStation 1 to 3, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo 64 and many more!
They also had tubs of cartridges for NES games and Game Boy/GBA. I spotted a Captain Tsubasa game (Captain Majid in the Gulf) :-)
The floor above it was full of anime DVDs, both classics and recent shows
Trader also had a floor for adult DVDs but no photography allowed there.
I couldn’t leave Akihabara without checking Club Sega, a massive arcade
Hatsune Miku UFO catcher :-)
In fact, they had several themed UFO catchers
All those stuffed toys waiting to get picked
They had all sorts of unique arcade games. This was some sort of dressing up game?
This was a MOBA called Wonderland Wars, in which you use a stylus and touchscreen
More Hatsune Miku games, this one in the Project DIVA rhythm game series
Taiko Drum Master (right) still going strong. To the left was this fast-paced rhythm game called Mai Mai.
Check out how well some girls play this game:
The top floor was mostly filled with arcade games that make use of readable cards
I don’t know how the games work… ‘cos it was all new to me. I have never seen arcade games like this before.
That said, you still have you popular arcade classics, and it’s not all by SEGA
I got to see Tekken 7 in action:
Mario Kart, 4 player arcade
SEGA’s classic Afterburner
And The House of the Head railgun shooter. Man, SEGA should revive Virtua Cop and The House of the Dead franchises for VR devices!
Alas, it was time for me to step back out into the light
It was time to finally leave Akihabara. I did visit some more stores but didn’t photographs because there wasn’t anything new in there. I didn’t find Super Potato, a famous store for retro videogames.
I hopped on the train and decided to go to Ginza
I came out the exit near the famous Kabuki-za theater, where a Kabuki dramas are staged
Ticket prices aren’t cheap
Not that I came to Ginza to watch a Kabuki play
Ginza is the premier shopping district in Japan
You can find the flagship stores of many of the world famous brands here. But I wasn’t here to shop at Prada.
I came to Ginza mainly to check out the 12-storey Uniqlo store here, which is the largest in Tokyo
Tokyo was a lot colder than I thought, and so I came looking for more clothing to keep me warm throughout the rest of my journey. I ended up buying a fair bit as the sale was pretty damn good and I got a clothes (including a pair of winter pants, two sweatshirts, a shirt and a pair of socks) all for ¥4405 (Rs. 2420/$36/€32)!
This was the top most floor, which was for co-branded Uniqlo clothing
Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store
There was a Citibank branch here, so I made the most of it and withdrew some money without any transaction fees charged to my card
I did walk around Ginza a bit and visited the GAP and Zara stores, but didn’t end up buying anything. I quite liked the architecture of some of the premier brand stores.
But it was time to head back to Ueno
Near Kinuya Honkan was a ramen shop. Saw it packed with people, so I figured the food must be good.
You pay for your meal using these vending machines
You first pay an amount based on the food prices. For example, I wanted a spicy pork ramen which was ¥650 (₹350/$5/€4). After you put in the ¥650, the buttons for all the dishes that are priced ¥650 light up. The machine accepts coins and notes. You then select the dish you want, collect your change and the token. You just hand over the token at the counter and they prepare the ramen. It’s quick and served piping hot.
It was delicious, and I was quite satisfied!
Back in Kinuya Honkan, I re-packed my bags and called it a night after a hot bath. Tomorrow I was going to leave Tokyo and head to Kyoto. My first journey in a bullet train!
I woke up at around 8AM. I wanted to sleep some more since it was cold and all, but I was excited to go to Akihabara, the electronics and otaku district!
I had to come down to the lobby to get my clothes as I had to leave my big suitcase in the room opposite the reception. No big suitcases allowed in the dorms due to lack of space. It was a little inconvenient, but… oh well.
Ever since I was a small kid I was fascinated with Japan. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Japan’s influence — especially its pop culture — was quite strong on me. Be it Macross/Robotech being the very first anime/cartoon I remember watching, to the ‘Made in Japan’ products we so revered in those days. Heck, even a pencil box I had with the bullet trains on the cover is still etched in my memory to this very day. And to think, nearly three decades later, I would actually ride the shinkansen this time!
I planned my journey around the sakura season, which in itself was a challenge. It’s hard to predict when the cherry blossoms would fully bloom. I went by this sakura calendar, and decided to travel late March. At the same time, I couldn’t afford to stay in Japan for too long. For the simple reason being… Japan is expensive! Yes, because of the value of yen right now, it’s cheaper, but it’s still a pretty damn expensive country compared to its neighbours.
None the less, this being my first time in Japan, I obviously wanted to spend more time in Tokyo. Outside of Japan’s capital, my initial plan was to go to Hiroshima, but everyone recommended Kyoto over it. So it was going to be Tokyo -> Kyoto -> Himeji -> Tokyo. I just hoped the sakura would bloom in full by the time I got back to Tokyo.
But I had to get to Tokyo first!
Date: March 21, 2015
My flight to Haneda airport was via Bangkok, which meant I was going to be flying Thai Airways.
I have taken enough photos of flights from Bangalore to Bangkok and at Suvarnabhumi Airport so don’t expect anymore photos from this route. But here’s what I ate on my flight to Bangkok.
And on the flight from Bangkok to Haneda
I was okay with flying to Haneda because my return journey was going to be from Narita. This way, I would get to see both airports that service Tokyo. In a way I was happy I got Haneda for this flight due to the late arrival at Tokyo. Haneda Airport is located in Tokyo itself, unlike Narita which is quite far out.