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Akihabara – The Electric Town

Otakus, Maid coffee shops, Cosplay restaurants! – Tokyo’s Akihabara is said to be the “Mecca” of video games and manga. The electronic district is not onlyorigin of a Japanese subculture, but also a popular tourist magnet.

Bild: Akihabara Car-free Zone by heiwa4126,
Bild: Akihabara Car-free Zone by heiwa4126,

Tokyo from the 1940s – In the alleys around the previous “Akiba-Shrine” (now Akihabara), occupied by the US Army, a black market for American goods was born. From radios to language computers, many little shops and shop counters started to offer more and more electronic household goods. Despite the illegal trade, the district developed to a place for future products and finally to an electronic center of the town – thereby it earned the nickname “electric town”.

Today, Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is a great attraction. The center of the anime and manga scene is not only a gamer’s paradise, but also the heart of the Japanese electronic trade.

The district’s slogan “Akihabara makes all your wishes come true” is greatly appropriate – starting from consoles to latest PC’s, smartphones and special electronic accessories: anime fans, retro gamers and tech freaks find everything they are looking for. Besides a shining and noisy offer of electronic goods and countless second-hand-stores, there are shops like the “Tokyo Anime Center” or the nine-floor “ Yodobashi Camera”, which completely adapted the Japanese pop-culture.

“Tokyo’s biggest light bulb” is also a great place for “Otakus” – manga fans, who love virtual worlds and spend a lot of money and time for their anime passion. Here a new generation with a multi-facetted youth culture finds a home.

Popular places in Akihabara: the various and unique “Cosplay coffee shops”. In these playful shops, the customers are served by young waitresses, who represent a fictive anime character through their costumes and behaviors. Most famous are the “maid coffee shops”, which have its origin in 2001 in Akihabara. They are easy to identify by the cute maid looks of the waitresses. Based on a fictive role play, the customer is called “master”. He gets his coffee served by the waitress kneeling, and is greeted with “Welcome Home”. A bizarre catering concept, which is also very popular for people, who are no “nerds”. There is already a great demand in countries like China, Taiwan or France.

The epicenter of modern pop culture is not only popular because of its “Cosplay restaurants”. Also beyond its borders the image of Japan is highly impacted by Akihabara. Besides the birth of the first Tamagochis and Gameboys, the district primarily represents lifestyle, ideals and weightlessness of the Japanese society – a parallel world without limitations and suppressed fantasies.