Akihabara is about 30 minutes away by train from Itabashi. Switched from the Saikyo line to the Yamanote line and waited 20 minutes. Finally arrived in Akihabara and felt at home. This place feels like home to me. The overwhelming amount of electronics, books, video games and other insanity just feels like a warm blanket. Decided to wander through some buildings that I had never entered before. When people say that if it runs on electrons it can be found in Akihabara, they aren't kidding. Some of the walkways were tiny, forcing me to bend and contort to get through. I certainly hope an earthquake does not hit while I am wandering around, as I doubt I'd survive and even if I did, the rescue party may not be prepared to get someone as large as I am out.
One of the most interesting things about Akiba (and Japan in general) is the sheer abundance of porn. Akiba is especially saturated in porn given its link to the nerd culture (insert masturbation jokes here. Arg, what a bad pun...) and it is common for stores to have one or more floors dedicated to porn. Even the large stores do this, such as Yamagiwa Soft. Sometimes the porn is on the same floor as normal merchandise. I was wandering through the used CD collection, looking for some bargains (found one, a used CD of The Pillows latest relase, My Foot), when I stepped into the next isle and WHAM! Porn. Very odd. The most disturbing thing was going through one building and right next to the escalators were a whole bunch of dvds with little girls. In swimsuits. I know that kind of shit is legal here (child porn isn't, but they allow a fine line) but it still disturbs me.
Most of my time, however, was spent in the arcades. I love watching people fighting it out in the arcades. Watched some guy play Darius-G for over 50 minutes without losing a single life. He was playing it as if he'd played it thousands of times before, knowing exactly where to move to avoid shots and to defeat bosses, almost as if it were all pre-rehersed. I suppose the challenge comes from being able to know everything there is to know about a game and being able to perform in a digital ballet of sorts, but I don't think it would be very fun. Other people played fighting games with one person usually dominating a machine until someone else came along, soundly defeated them and the pattern would continue. I wish I could practice and play the games as well as these folks do, but paying almost a dollar per game doesn't lend itself to my small budget. I have considered starting to play a massive Gundam game where you enter this pod of sorts, fight with a team of people and earn points in large scale battles. These points let you buy other Gundam models and weapons. I'm not very into the Gundam universe but the idea is pretty interesting. If they made it so that all of the locations and games influenced the overall outcome of a war that would be one of the most impressive and innovative ideas I have ever seen. Too bad everything is in Japanese.
I wandered all over Akiba, going from one noisy arcade to another. The noise level was worse than being at a Gwar concert and left my ears ringing for hours. I remained in Akiba until 9:30pm, when I got on the train for home. The monitors said that the Saikyo line was being delayed due to an accident, but I noticed no difference and got home shortly after 10pm. Valentina and Andy were downstairs eating dinner and asked me how I was enjoying living in Japan so far.
Right now, I can honestly say I am having fun. Just need to visit Akihabara more often.
Photos for January 16th, 2007