At the end of his first full day in Tokyo, Diego makes his obligatory pilgrimage to the global capital of otaku excess.
At Tokyo Station, I hopped onto a northbound Yamanote Line train and got off at Akihabara (passing Kanda Station on the way).
The station has several exits, but the one for Akihabara Electric Town was particularly well-signposted (above) so I simply headed in that direction. From the exit, I turned left into a side street and eventually found myself on Chūō-dōri, the main thoroughfare running through the heart of Akihabara.
The first major store I encountered was AsoBitCity (below).
It was here that I snapped my first and only picture of the inside of an Akiba store – or, to be precise, the inside of the lift of an Akiba store:
As soon as I stepped out of the lift, I noticed a sign warning visitors not to take photographs. My compulsion to obey instantly took over, and henceforth I kept my camera buried deep in my coat pocket every time I walked into an Akiba store.
I spent about twenty minutes in AsoBitCity before dashing back out onto the pavement and resuming my northerly stroll down Chūō-dōri. It was already late in the afternoon, but the streets were still fairly quiet (below). As I discovered during my next two visits to this area, things only start to get really congested in the early evening, presumably after all the denizens of Akiba get off from school and work. (Or it could’ve been just an off day.)
I remember seeing a small, neat pile of flowers arranged on one street corner – probably a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Akihabara Massacre.
The distraction brought on by the glitzy lights and heady atmosphere of the place – not to mention my overpowering timidity – precluded further outdoor photography, but my next few stops are easily visible in the following Google Maps street view. (Note: The embedded view works fine in Firefox but tends to disappear in IE8; try this direct link if it doesn’t show up.)
About a block and a half down the road from AsoBitCity was the legendary tiger’s den itself: the main store of Comic Toranoana. There are, in fact, two Comic Toranoana stores here, one right next to the other; most of the dōjinshi are gathered in one of them. I entered that building but – not being a dōjin person – decided not to venture any higher than the manga/magazine/artbook shelves on the ground floor.
I also went inside the other building for a quick look. Floors full of young women, a lift full of young women. Warning bells started to ring; I was clearly in female territory here. (The floor information on the official site holds the answer: 3/F = magazines, manga, games and music CDs for women; 4/F = dōjinshi and dōjin software for women.) I hopped back onto the lift and beat a hasty retreat to the ground floor, passing the infamous Cafe with Cat on the way.
Then I struck the mother lode. Right next door to Comic Toranoana was a towering, seven-storey stack of anime merchandising goodness: the Akihabara branch of Animate. I’m sure it’s possible to find better prices or better selections after a diligent search of the neighbourhood, but a casual anime enthusiast pressed for time and with no local knowledge – like me – will forever be grateful for the existence of this convenient one-stop money incinerator. The fourth and fifth floors immediately became my personal favourites, mainly because they had row after row of shelves and trays piled high with a mind-boggling array of character goods. There’s also an excellent figure section on the fifth floor, which I missed the first time around because it was in the rear part of the building (behind the main staircase); I found it when I returned the next day.
I did very little shopping on this day (most of the stuff featured in this earlier post was purchased during a future visit), but I did treat myself to a couple of Nyanko-sensei teacups.
Incidentally, the AsoBitCity branch I went to only had one of these on stock.
On my way back to Akihabara Station, I darted into a quiet side street and took one final outdoor shot – this one showing the back of the AsoBitCity building I visited earlier.
Day 3 highlights: Ueno Park (lots of sakura!), the Tokyo National Museum, the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Sensō-ji.