When people talk about why the love Japan, their answer will usually be the same… the food, anime, technology and otaku culture… if only there was a place where everyone focused on this one thing and gathered in a district… oh wait; Akihabara.
Akihabara has had be stoked, I considered only doing a day trip there however it deserved my full attention and pretty much ate up our whole day; new experiences, lots of cool stuff and the sights were awesome. Let’s begin shall we~
We wake up at around 7.30am and KD isn’t feeling too amazing so we decide to take things slow, eat breakfast, shower for the day and do our research on where we are going before we head out at about 10am. Longer than I had liked but Akihabara was getting a whole day and it’d be better if KD was feeling a little better than she was this morning. The planed worked out so it’s all good.
It was another hot sweltering day. 34c. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun definitely wanted to let you know that. We had just eaten breakfast so we head straight to Okachimachi station which (finally) is now in memory so we can get there without even thinking about it. The constant feeling of being lost and overwhelmed is a bit much sometimes but it feels we’re finally settling in, (Shame it’s half way through our stay in Tokyo) we arrive at the station and hit up the Yamanote line once again; Akihabara is literally 1 stop away so it’s a 5 minute train ride and we are where we want to be.
The first thing on my mind is I am dying of thirst. Japan have this thing where… food is never ‘boiling’ hot, it’s just under hot and slightly above Luke Warm; there are exceptions but this is typically how it’s done and as per that rule, the orange juice served at the buffet is just under luke warm, it’s nice because it’s free orange juice, but it’s not exactly refreshing really; so we go to the vending machines and I order an Iced Orange juice and KD gets some Match which is a little bit like Pocari Sweat but carbonated. Think carbonated orange lucozade sport (the kind that looks yellow and has a blue label) that’s about how it tastes. It’s another ion drink so it’s good for when it’s hot and me and KD head out in too Akihabara; The electric city.
The first thing you see when you go out in to Akihabara is this:
It has the words Sega on it and look relatively interesting so I jump on it and KD runs after me wondering what I’m so excited about. It’s an arcade! My first Japanese Arcade and these things are still super popular on japan, like you don’t even understand. They have 7 floors and they’re all pretty busy and there are so many it’s pretty ridiculous.
The first 2 or 3 floors are usually dedicated to prize grab UFO machines and other prize/chance related games; the basement has your typical gambling with smoking allowed and floors 4,5,6 will contain gaming machines. The top floor is always a multiplayer arcade; be in Gundam multiplayer (which looks fantastic by the way) or this new virtual card game they’re trying to sell at the moment, there is also the typical racing games etc where you can play against your friends and it makes me wish the UK had this gaming culture instead of sitting and home and being a “consumer”
What’s worth noting is because Arcades are huge in Japan… you are a customer, or a gamer… not a consumer. I think it’s kind of insulting that in the west we’ve accepted this term as in we will eat what we are given and not ask questions and just deal with it… I guess that’s why COD and FIFA are so popular for so many years now yet are dead in Japan but I’ll get back on topic; the level of service these places have is astounding; In the prize floors the prizes are high value Japanese Anime figures, HUGE cute plushies or gigantic amounts of snack for such a small price.
I think it’s focused on making the games harder but cheaper to try and try again at a really valuable prize. We were in Akihabara so if I wasn’t such a gambling gamer freak I could have just walked by the store and bought some of these prizes but instead with a little bit of luck and having a lot of fun along the way I ended up getting some of thee items for a lot cheaper than their retail price and it felt a lot better to win them than to just buy them.
The multi-player gaming area is also really cool; you get these cards that remember you so for example if you play Gundam Capsule; every time you play you will earn exp to earn a new gundam, new weapons… stuff like that and you can charge the money for x amount of play throughs to that card as well, so you tap the card; it logs you in and everyone sits down to play.
It’s absolutely amazing and I know many people might not find it as interesting but look at the arcades we have in the UK; typically owned by some shady/greedy guy who has no passion for games electronics or gaming culture but someone who wants to take your money of you and give you terrible items in return. That’s what arcades are for us; but in Japan, we see some guy has walked by a machine and it’s a massive figurine from K-ON the anime, easily worth £100+ he’s put in about 5000 yen and it drops, but gets stuck at the very last hurdle so he keeps on playing trying to dislodge the item that is almost his but isn’t because of the smallest bit of bad luck. He pumps another 5000 yen (around £40~) in to the machine and it’s still stuck in the same place; so someone who works there comes by, laughs at how close it is and moves it so it’s not perpetually stuck and he can have an honest go at it. He puts in enough for 2 more tries (200 yen) and he gets it on his very last coin; everyone who has been watching in agony at this guy who has been struggling to get it out for the last 15 minutes (including us) cheers as it falls and the SEGA guy also cheers and everyone is happy.
I realize I’ve written a lot about it, but I’m passionate about things like this and I honestly believe this is how it should be.
After we spend about 2 hours in the Arcades, we decide it’s time for lunch and we want to try out something very special in South East Asia; Maid Café’s especially in Akihabara; the gimmick is you get a really nice, cute lunch/drink/desert whatever you feel like having but the people who serve it to you are cute Japanese girls wearing maid outfits; they’re really enthusiastic about it and you can’t help but be a bit bemused. It’s definitely an experience I would recommend and is not seedy or as filthy as it might sound.
The cafe is on the 6th floor near the arcade we were just in, so we take a not beautiful looking elevator up and the moment the doors open up we’re welcomed by an amazing looking room that leads to the café we walk on in amazed at the change and the maid welcoming ‘The masters of the house’ can see that we’re foreigners, she asks if we’re English and we say hi! She speaks pretty good american-english and explains the rules and that there is a cover charge that we should know about as we can’t read Japanese and she was really straight forward with everything, it was really welcoming as typically in Japan if you go in too a store and they see you can’t speak English they look a little bit frustrated that they’re going to have to work past the language barrier; but hear she spoke and practiced her English and we used the very very basic Japanese we knew, such as “yes” “thank you” “cute” “cool” and “Sorry?” as in “could you repeat”
She was really great to talk too and put in such an effort to speak to us in Japanese, so did all of them as some of them knew as much English as we knew Japanese but still gave it everything they had and they seemed amazed we knew and loved Pokémon as we had won Pokemon keyrings and they all picked up on this and were equally as interested. (Pro-tip: Flareon is called “Booster” in Japan) The food was so very adorable and they conducted “Maid Magic” to make our drinks taste better.
There is something about calling “Nyan Nyan!” to get a waitresses attention and she be in a french maid outfit and be really talkative and cute that is probably worth the rather high prices to go to one of these; they’re really female friendly as well and the whole experience was really really awesome; I would honestly recommend if you are ever i Asia; find one of these, they are well worth the price and you can’t help but smile at just how wacky it all is.
In one combo price we got a Main Course which was Pork-Katsu-Curry with Bear Shaped rice with whatever you asked the maid to write on your Katsu(super cute btw) a drink, a photo with a maid of your choice and a chance at the “Lucky Box” which contained small toys, to really expensive maid cakes to photo albums of the maids; I won some really fancy cakes and KD won a tea-light to conduct maid magic with. Super cute.
After we had finished with the maid show and watched one of them do a very elaborate dance with backflips and what not, we decided to shop around a bit more and see what else Akihabara had to offer; we saw tons of Mobile phone shops, stores selling games, console s it was a bit like a dream for me.
However I couldn’t buy anything because I had this weird feeling in my stomach that I remember reading all mobile phones in Japan are sold locked to a Japanese network and you have to contact one to get it unlocked which is extremely hard as a foreigner and while we saw a really cheap Wii U, I didn’t know if they have region issues either.
Electronics are so much cheaper in Akihabara; I’m not exactly sure how they do it but they manage it, they were efffectively selling a brand new 3DS with one game for what equals to be about £70 it appeals to the nerd and the frugal spender in me at the same time but I wanted to go home and google whether I can buy these electronics or not.
After a long day of shopping we decide we should head too Harajuku for some crepes and some small cute accessories shopping. We sit down and have ridiculously delicious crepes and buy some cute gifts for people back home.
We realize it’s going to get dark in about an hour and I’m really gunning to see the Shibuya Scramble crossing and do some shopping there so we head back home to relax our feet for about an hour and drop of some bags. It feels a lot better to be off our feet for a short moment and open all our prizes and see how awesome they are out of the box.
We head back out, pick up a drink from the vending machines and head to Shibuya. I think my only gripe is I didn’t look up the map of Tokyo before booking our hotel so our hotel is 25 minutes away from all the good stops but it’s hardly an issue; we arrive at Shibuya and take the correct exit this time; the Hachiko entrance.
Shibuya seems to all know and love this dog and it has such an adorable story;
In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, took in Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. During his owner’s life, Hachikō greeted him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachikō was waiting. Each day for the next nine years Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Initial reactions from the people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly. However, after the first appearance of the article about him on October 4, 1932 in Asahi Shimbun, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.
Of course he never did come back and died years later, but Shibuya has this dog everywhere, it has it’s own station exit, bronze monuments everywhere; it’s an adorable little story and I really love it when you can just feel a Districts history glowing out of it.
Shibuya really represents the fast paced lifestyle of Tokyo and it has some of it’s biggest and most famous stores such as Shibuya 109 and many more. It’s huge and very very bright. We were all shopped out for the day so we stop on the second store starbucks to get a really good view of the crossing.
After that I’m still not very hungry and it’s about 9PM so we head around the food district because we know we should eat dinner before we go to bed even if it’s something small and we find a automatic sushi bar!
Me and KD eat our body weight in sushi (Including a hilarious burger sushi) and I roll back to the hotel.
Bonus picture of me looking like I’m about to snatch a child