It is no secret that Japan has tremendous cultural importance due to its animated shows and manga that have helped to propel its culture. In fact many of us grew up watching animes such as Heidi, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Astro Boy…ect. The global consumption of this media has become a money-making machine that makes billions annually.
It is in this context that we can view the Akihabara area of Tokyo whose large buildings full of stores and shops primarily cater to anime, manga and video game aficionados. To put things into perspective, imagine walking into a labyrinth with row after row of bookshelves crowding small little shops and multiply by a few hundred and you’ll get an idea of what Akihabara is. While in Akihabara, one is bombarded by a plethora of images revolving around anime, music groups and game characters. The street where most of these shops are located are chock full of shops that cater to some of the unique aspects of otaku culture meanwhile music from different directions fill the ears with the latest music by popular Japanese idol groups like AKB48. Shops in Akihabara include maid cafes with girls dressed as French maids and that cater to the needs of primarily male customers, entire floors of buildings that sell nothing but hentai style manga and “robot strip clubs” in the surrounding area (more on this later).
In effect Akihabara is designed to overload the senses but also to create an environment that mimics the way that life is portrayed in Japanese media and games. Aside from the focus of otaku culture, there is a wide array of electronics that are sold in the many shops of the area. Arcades are also abundant and there is a large market for retro video games such as the NES and other early Japanese video game consoles. However there are some drawbacks to this sort of environment, with older Japanese alleging that young people are increasingly becoming introverted and focusing primarily on anime and manga rather than the world at large. In any case Akihabara is the heart and soul of media, electronics and young culture.