Since I had time to kill after concluding my visit to Yokohama, and the 30 minute train ride had given me some illusion of rest, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to check out Akihabara, which at 2 Yamanote-line stops is relatively close to Ueno.
Akihabara is the electronics town, although nowadays the otaku business is just as, if not more, prevalent there as well. That’s really what I was looking for, because all the compatibility issues really take the fun out of shopping for videogames here.
All the buildings in Akihabara seem to be tall and narrow, as a result of which most megastores have 7 or 8 small floors rather than 2 big ones. I had to adapt quickly to the routine of walking onto a floor, peeking around, going up to the next one and repeating the process.
If I didn’t have an epileptic seizure today, then I know I never will. The place is everything you’ve heard people say, and then some -there are TVs playing loud anime, at the same time they’re playing maddening J-Pop in the background, the walls are covered in huge posters, there are big garish signs and ads everywhere… It’s like looking into a giant kaleidoscope. On drugs. Inside a barrel falling down Niagara Falls.
It’s amazing how quickly genres can shift in these manga stores (and how quickly it can go south). I would be perusing the teen section, then turn around and continue on the space robots section, which itself could be next to the girly section. I really had to keep my eyes peeled, because between the sensory overload and the abundance of material it was really easy to miss some of the best stuff.
Some random thoughts: I can’t believe Evangelion still moves so much product in merchandising. Are the new comics such a hit? Have they done a new series? It was pretty much the most represented IP everywhere. I got myself a nice NERV staff badge out of it, in any case! My goal was to find Azumanga and Yotsuba merch, which was nigh impossible. At first I thought it was because they weren’t popular enough, but after seeing some of the things on sale, there’s really no excuse! The things I cannot unsee!
I ended up having some success at the very last store before the station, Kotobukiya, although I won’t go into detail because it’s going to be omiyage for some of the people reading this 🙂 The stores I liked the most (the ones that had the most varied and interesting paraphernalia) were Animate and Kotobukiya. Animate should be easy enough to find (you can see the blue building on the picture) but Kotobukiya isn’t on the main street; if you look, you can see it from the main street, close to the JR station.
Having noticed that people really make no attempt to talk to me in English, I’ve begun to stop caring about embarrassing myself with my Japanese. I managed to ask the clerk at Kotobukiya about Yotsuba, and she explained to me that one of these days (perhaps later today? I didn’t get it) they’re gonna have an “event” with Danboru, the breakaway character from Yotsuba, for kids to take his picture. What’d you know!
I finished the day by having dinner at an udon place near Ueno Station. The waiter mercifully brought me an English menu, but otherwise addressed me in Japanese, too. At one point he took pity on me making a mess out of my udon and offered to bring me a fork, but I valiantly declined -it’s not so much that I don’t need it, as it is that I need the practice!