Akihabara: A Geek Paradise

By Mel

The geek has indeed inherited the earth. A growing number of pursuits are now aimed squarely at the geek in all of us. Gone are the days when poring over comicbooks, talking about gadgets and raving over Star Trek is a sure way of getting beat up. Now it is cool to be a geek. It’s practically a badge of honor to be able to reference science fiction shows and fantasy novels, actually recognize physics terms and theories, have a huge comicbook collection and have a slew of gadgets — most of them released just a few months ago.

For the true-blue and hardcore geek no other country in the world would be the destination for a pilgrimage more than Japan and when in Japan, the geek will naturally gravitate towards Akihabara, like a pigeon sensing magnetic north.

Akihabara is the flashiest district in Tokyo and covers practically everything the geek will have any interest in. Akihabara is considered the technological district of Tokyo and with good reason. It is located in the eastern part of Tokyo and just a two stops away from the northern section of the main Tokyo Station. For the uninitiated, Akihabara is commonly known as Electric Town — a throwback from its earlier reputation as the center of electronics and home appliance retailers. But even though the area is littered with a wide range of shops that offer all of the gadgets and electronics you can think of, it has also acquired a new, much deserved, reputation as the place where geeks can go see the things that interest them.

Name the geek pursuit and Akihabara will most probably have it. What makes Akihabara a geek paradise is that it actually caters to all the kinds of geeks out there. Oh yes, there are many types of geeks and they have different pursuits, passions and obsessions.

One of the most common type of geeks are the gadget freaks that absolutely must have the latest and greatest gadget out there. Akihabara is the perfect place for these geeks because it enjoys a “pioneer” reputation for getting technologies and gadgetry fads way before it becomes popular or even hits the rest of the world. You will often see gadgets and electronic equipment there that will only catch the world’s attention after a few years. Just the thought of getting a gadget before everyone else boosts your bragging rights and makes you the ubergeek of your neighborhood.

Anime and manga geeks will also find their Shangri-la in Akihabara. The Tokyo Anime Fair is held near the area and there are many merchandising shops in the district that sell anime stuff — from OAVs, plush toys, replica weapons and action figures. Beware though, the hentai anime figures are also quite ubiquitous in the area so be vigilant if you’re going to visit with youngsters.

Of course, for geeks from the West, Akihabara has become synonymous with a particular geek pursuit — gaming. Electric Town is where you can find shops that sell all manner of gaming consoles (you can even get lucky and find the discontinued console you’ve been looking for). You’ll also find a dizzying array of games for sale for absolutely all kinds of platforms. Even games from discontinued platforms (even those that’s more than a decade old) will usually be available there. And the most insane thing is that they’re housed in huge places. You’ll find stocks in stores that are contained in several floors. All manner of games are represented in Akihabara. You’ll be amazed at the sheer number of games that have been developed in Japan that never got to see the light of day in the West — from RPGs to shooters to hentai type sex games.

Geeks that love music and movies will also find many interesting places to visit and shop in at Akihabara. Shops that sell second hand and brand new CDs and DVDs proliferate around the area. For non-music loving geeks here’s an interesting piece of information — Japan-pressed CDs have gained a reputation among audiophiles for having the best audio quality. Additionally, Japan-pressed albums usually contain additional tracks that are not usually available in CDs pressed in the US or the EU. These are the factors that make buying CDs in Japan a very interesting proposition.

Cinephiles will go nuts over the selection of Japanese movies that are the rage among movie lovers. From the wide array of horror movies to thought provoking dramas and in-your-face action — Japan offers films that are worth watching and collecting.

Akihabara is a wonderful place to explore. If you’re a geek there is just so many things to do and explore there that you’ll get lost in your own mind just looking at the dizzying array of products and things that cater to your every desire. But non geeks will love it too because Akihabara is the perfect reflection of what Japan is — a place steeped in history and culture that is not afraid to embrace the new. Go book hotels in Japan and don’t forget to visit Akihabara.

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