Prior to visiting Tokyo, I had visions of the city being stacked with row after row of tall flashy buildings, hundreds of stores selling anime, electronics galore, and people prancing around the city dressed in cosplay.
My perception of the city was extremely inaccurate and I found out that only one neighborhood was like that: Akihabara (秋葉原).
Occupying a small section of the Chiba neighborhood in northeastern Tokyo, Akihabara (sometimes referred to as Akiba) is full of tall colorful buildings, neon lights, anime, and cosplay. It is referred to as electric city as it is filled with hundreds of electronic shops, and it is also home to the Otaku (おたく) culture.
Not knowing what Otaku culture was all about, I decided to join a tour with Context Travel to learn about the neighborhood of Akihabara and about Otaku.
When I arrived to the famous AKB48 Cafe outside of the Akihabara train station, I was greeted by my tour guide Thomas, and given a brief introduction of the Akihabara neighborhood and of Otaku culture.
I learned that Otaku, is a term used to describe extremely devoted (or some might say ‘obsessed’) enthusiasts of a particular thing. People who are otaku are often seen as socially-awkward and are most often associated with having an extreme love for manga ( Japanese comic books), and/or anime (cartoons); however, there are a number of other types of Otaku including Cosplay Otaku, Game Otaku, J-Pop Otaku, and Figure Otaku.
After getting a glimpse of a gathering of AKB48 enthusiasts (J-Pop Otaku), Thomas led us through the streets of Akihabara, into the narrow back alleys of some of the neighborhood’s oldest electronic shops, through a figure otaku shop, and then into the famous Taito HEY arcade (1-10-5 Soto-Kanda) to experience Game Otaku.
Taito HEY is a game-lovers dream destination and there were a number of gamers intensely involved in playing video games on multiple floors. In addition to the games, the arcade had a number of scantily clad figurines in suggestive poses that were encased in glass for gamers to ogle at.
After leaving the arcade, we made our way across the street to Maidreamin, a chain maid cafe. After being handed cute little animal ears, we were served different kinds of drinks and snacks by women dressed in maid costumes.
While we were not allowed to take pictures of the maids working in the cafe, we were allowed to take pictures of each other and of our table, so I took an adorable picture our tour guide in cat ears.
As our tour was drawing to an end, we made our way over to Yodobashi Akiba, the largest electronic store in Akihabara selling almost every type of electronic good that a person might want. Since I love electronics (particularly computers and cameras), I immediately fell in love with the massive store upon walking in.
The Geek to Chic tour of Akihabara and Otaku culture provided me with great background knowledge on one of the most interesting Japanese subcultures. There were some things that I saw on the tour that shocked and surprised me, however I worked on maintaining an open mind while learning about some of the different things that Akihabara otaku people were devoted to.
If you are interested in learning more about Otaku culture and the neighborhood of Akihabara, check out Context Travel’s Otaku: From Geek to Chic tour.
Cost: ¥8,900 (does not include maid cafe)
FTC Disclosure: I was a guest of the Otaku: From Geek to Chic tour, however all opinions in this post are my own.