The name ‘Electric town’ stems from a period post WW2 where radio components and other small electricals were sold in a black market style environement. Due to a lack of clear governmental guidance these markets flourished and grew exponentially.
By the end of the 60’s Akihabara was the central hub for discount stores and independant retailers selling the latest tech. However towards the end of the 70’s ‘Akiba’ as it’s known by the locals had in business terms, lost it’s USP. Discount stores has sprung up all over Tokyo leaving the district at a loss and on the decline. Nevertheless in true entrepreneurial fashion, Akiba was rejuvinated by reinventing itself as the epicentre for Otaku. Now you are as likely to find intricately designed plastic models of anime characters, self-penned pornographic comics and cosplay stores – as you are electric circuits, arcades and ofcourse discount tech stores touting tax free products.
Now, reading the above it could be perceived that Akiba has lost it’s soul or authenticity. I can assue you that this is 100% not the case. Infact the genuinety of the place is one of the reasons I love Akibahara. Whenever I walked the streets I felt like I was the only tourist around and for me that feeling of being lost in another culture is priceless. I find it to be quite rare when on my travels, however when in Japan I had this feeling every single day. It’s the first country I’ve been to where there was this bona fide ubiquitous excitement from the first to last day.
When exploring Akiba you come to realise that it’s been built with pure Japanese passion. From the outside it could quite easily be perceived as a tourist haven, but when you delve a little deeper past the maids that line the streets (who ironically rarely hand out flyers to tourists) you’ll find something special. In the stores you’ll find the locals sitting on the floors engrossed in manga, buying cables and components for their heavily invested projects or ofcourse my favourite – the businessmen on their lunch break who visit the arcades and hang up thier blazers to fit some intense gaming in!
Below I’ve selected a few photos I took whilst there (click to enlarge) – enjoy!