I am trying to alternate between old stories about Japan and more recent stories about my time here in Thailand and that’s why I am going to write about my 2011 trip to Japan again. The day after we went to Hello Kitty Land we made our way to the land of the geeks called Akihabara, also known as Akiba. During middle school I was a huge fan of Japanese manga comics and anime cartoons. I had a huge collection of mangas, owned a few figurines and even tried my hand at cosplaying a few times. All of this really made me appreciate the Japanese language and culture and slowly I changed from a comics geek to a Japanese culture enthusiast. And with Japanese culture I don’t mean the pop culture, although I also went through a phase of liking Japanese pop music and fashion, but I mean the traditional culture. I wanted to see temples, shrines, try on a kimono, join a tea-ceremony, see a Maiko performance… things like these brought my to Japan in 2011. But I am not going to lie, I still didn’t mind seeing more of the pop culture either, that’s why I went to concerts, explored amusement parks, indulged in purikura photo stickers and ended up in Akiba as well. So off we went, my friend and me, to remember our times of being otaku, before it was cool to be otaku.
Our first ‘boss fight’ started right at the Akiba station. We got off at a certain entrance, but we had to be at the other side if the station. And we couldn’t find our way around, so there was only one option (for the idiots who can’t find the exit) was to go back through the ticket gates to the other side. The fun started when we slipped through the ticket gates but obviously got kind of stuck because we didn’t have tickets. But the ticket gates are not that strong nor big, so we could push ourselves through anyway. This resulted in a lot of stares obviously, but luckily for us the Japanese are too shy/scared to confront others, especially foreigners, so they immediately ignored us and continued on their way. Awkward moment two was trying to get out of the ticket gates on the other side. Obviously we couldn’t force ourselves through the gates a second time and there was a ticket guy on that side keeping an eye on the gates anyway. So how do we get out? Then I remembered you can ask the ticket guy to let you through if you have lost your ticket. So I pretended to have lost my ticket and asked if I could go through. I had to pay the fare for the ticket I had lost first. No problem. I thought he’d let me and my friend through but then he said my friend had to go through the normal ticket gates. Since she didn’t have ticket either we awkwardly said she had lost hers too. She paid for her ticket as well and he let us through…. We are so stupid.
The look on their faces are hilarious; ‘What are these two foreigner girls doing here?’
My favorite photo: Cool Old Dude…. sure!
But finally we had arrived in the right part of town! And there was a street full of tall buildings filled to the brim with anything geek-related; figurines, computer-parts, games, manga, mugs, cushions, dolls, key-chains. The higher the floor the weirder and dirtier the things are that are being sold. The street was made car free because it was a sunday. That made it easier to walk around in the crowds because it was quite busy. Believe me or not, we were the only foreigners there. A stark contrast to when I went back this year, when there were a lot of tourists and some tourist shops even popped up! To be honest, our whole trip had been really nice because there were not many other tourists. This was partly because of the Fukushima disaster which made a huge impact on the influx of tourists coming to Japan. On the other hand the number of tourists has boomed in the last few years and it is becoming busier every day. I guess I am spoilt because of my first trip; we had enjoyed even the golden pavilion with only a few others and more than enough space to make nice photos. The two times that I went back there in 2015 it was overcrowded with buses of Chinese people and it was hard to take photos and walk around. There is nothing we can do about it though, it will only get busier from now on. Not just in Japan, but everywhere.
Anyway, the noise in Akiba coming from speakers playing loud music and tv’s showing advertisement videos with squeaky voices was almost paralyzing; every shop, every floor, every product and machine makes sound and it is so overwhelming. Mix it with crazy banners and bright colors everywhere and you have the perfect mix for sensory overload. It’s safe to say that for people who prefer the quiet and calm, like me and my friend, it is way to much and it won’t take you long to go crazy. We tried about three different shops when we already reached our limit. We had definitely left behind our days as otaku and it just wasn’t our thing anymore. It was nice to experience it though. We didn’t make our goals of finding a Miku figurine and finding the Ryu ga Gotoku game that never launched in the EU and US. We did buy a cute Rilakkuma wallet and I bought a new case for my iPod (yes, it’s only four years ago but it was a time where iPhones were still rare and iPods were still the bomb. How times have changed). Already exhausted we made a pit stop at Mister Donut. When we made our way to the station we stopped by a small shops selling video games where I did find the game is was looking for. Akiba Mission Accomplished.