For whatever reason, my friend wanted to meet up in Akihabara — not exactly the kind of place one goes for drinks and dinner. I’d have a hard time explaining her logic, other than convenience, as she lived in Ueno, just a couple stations away on the Yamanote Line. And so, at 9pm on a Wednesday night, we roamed the sparsely populated streets of Tokyo’s infamous Electric Town, looking not for video games and anime, but a place to get a couple beers — and coming up with few options. As shops began turning off their neon facades and storefront lights, we found ourselves wandering around a place that felt more generic Tokyo residential than a hotbed of hip, otaku culture. The maids who lined the streets to hand out fliers had left for home, and with them, so had the otaku, their ubiquitous, oversized backpacks stuffed with doujinshi and figurines. Fading remnants of Akihabara’s daytime activity and bustle still lingered, but they were being shuttered, closed or ignored. We were trapped in Disneyland after closing; the animatronic ghosts of otaku cool haunting the streets, lifeless and cold.
The myth of Akihabara permeates Western fandom as deeply as any other misconception revered by Western anime fandom, but rarely, if ever, is it questioned or explained. Akihabara is not the epicenter of Japan’s cool otaku subculture, nor does that subculture even exist. Akihabara is an over-merchandised shopping complex in the middle of Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, populated by Japan’s manchildren, gawking tourists and the foreign residents who erroneously portray it as the hub of modern Japanese pop-culture.
When Danny Choo dances in the street wearing his Stormtrooper costume with Japanese girls, it is not representative of the Japanese mainstream accepting otaku culture. Regular people will see him as little more than a silly man in a funny costume from a movie they might have seen once, not an otaku-cool prophet bringing moé to the masses. Mention Akihabara to regular Japanese people and they’ll either grimace or grin; both for the same reason: the otaku. No matter the positive spin foreign fans may have forced upon the word after decades of trying, it still carries a negative connotation among most Japanese. Worse may be the perception of the otaku themselves, viewed as creepy loners with an awkward pity and disdain, a cross between Tsutomu Miyazaki and Star Trek fans from a Saturday Night Live skit.
That’s not to say non-otaku don’t venture into Akihabara, long held to be “the” place to go for electronics in Tokyo. But when Japan’s electronic store chains began building gigantic stores next to every major train station, the necessity of going to Akihabara’s Electric Town quickly diminished. In the void left by home electronics shoppers going elsewhere, Akihabara embraced personal computer enthusiasts in the early 1990s, a time when simply owning a computer was still a hobby itself. With the personal computer, came its two close siblings: video games and anime, and the ever present factor that tied all three together: pornography. Only recently has Akihabara strived to bring in more a non-otaku crowd, exemplified best by the monstrous Yodobashi Camera built across the street from Akihabara station last year. The caveat is that the huge green building is on the opposite side of the station from Electric Town, ensuring that the weekenders won’t have to deal with those pesky otaku if they don’t want to.
It’s the sex and pornography that keeps Akihabara going, and the otaku pay for it. The tourists will buy little, take photos and continue on to the next destination on their Travelwiki-planned itinerary. The weekenders will come around every few years when they need a new TV or microwave. But it’s the otaku who come back every week, ready to spend the excess cash their bachelor lives provide. Akihabara is little more than a red light district, albeit one with a unique deviancy and a curfew. Anywhere you look, you’re likely to spy the doe-eyed visage of a cartoon girl of indeterminate age, be it on a billboard, a book cover, a pillow or a mouse pad with sculpted breasts, but the sex comes in other forms as well.
While the elusive maid cafe that offered handjobs to patrons and was shut down by police might be spoken of in hushed tones, handjob-free maid cafes are easy to find. Physical contact may be non-existent and buried under that sheen of Japanese wacky and cute, but arguing against the implicit sexual undertones of the maid cafe phenomenon is simply naive. While it might not be hard to figure out why sad, lonely men would pay ridiculous prices for petite cakes and teas delivered by gracious young women dressed in ridiculous outfits, the better question might be why they do it in a country where actual sex for money is commonly offered in many forms.
Attracted to this otaku candy store came the Danny Choos and Patrick Galbraiths of the world, foreign anime fans who find companionship in the otaku crowds of Akihabara. They perpetrate the myths of the otaku subculture, transposing that most inherent quality of early Western fandom onto Japanese fandom. But while the West relied upon community and organizations to spread the underground word of Japanese acetate and share the joys of Kei and Yuri’s breasts, Japanese fandom needed no such camaraderie to sustain itself and so you have the loner otaku shuffling through the crowded aisles of Akihabara’s cramped stores, oblivious to what their bulbous backpacks and fannypacks might bump into. But while the notion of the otaku-cool subculture was invented by those seeking a profit, it’s an idea that the West has latched onto and refuses to give up. It’s the most satisfying myth of all: that somewhere, in that magical land of Japan there are people who like anime just like you, but they’re cool and they all hang out in the coolest part of the coolest city, Akihabara.
As it is now, Akihabara finds itself in a strange dichotomy. The otaku continue to come week after week, ready to spend serious money on their own sexual fulfillment, be it digital, tree pulp or maid. The tourists continue to flock in as well, buoyed by Akihabara’s increasing popularity as a tourist stop and the rising popularity of anime worldwide. But as the tourists may stop into a maid cafe for a bizarre Japanese experience they can blog about, it’s the otaku who come back week after week and have their own favorite maids. Even as the Japanese government pushes Japanese animation as a tourist incentive for the whole family, and with it the world’s largest anime shopping center otherwise known as Akihabara, Electric Town’s shops are lined with pornography.
In truth, Akihabara is nothing but an amusement park, the regular otaku visitors eschewing roller coasters for their own brand of 2D sexual fulfillment, and the tourists come for the novelty. In place of Mickey and Minnie, Akihabara has maids, in place of Space Mountain there’s a shop with over a hundred gatchapon machines, and your tour guide might be a white guy in a Dragonball Z costume. People claimed that the Akihabara stabbing incident of June 2008 marked the death of Akihabara, and perhaps of the popularity of otaku, but the fact is that there was nothing to kill in the first place.
That said, good post, I still want to visit Akihabara one day even if it's just for the sake of curiosity.
Not really. I know a painfully high number of people who like to say "I'm an otaku" thinking that otakus are cool people who like anime and can't stop talking about how much they'd love to visit the oh so cool otaku land that is japan.
If you don't know a lot of such people, I can't say anything but "You're lucky"...
Also the "I love Nerds" / "Geek Culture" / "Ironic Hipster" movement in the state muddies the water a bit.
Maybe. I can only come up with:
1. the opportunity see shmup/fighting gods play
2. easy to walk in and buy foreign games (great for youge- loverz)
3. arcade boards for sale pretty close
4. great electronics shops with hard to find parts/foreign gear from Taiwan and Korea (or so i heard... I'm into games)
5. people singing anime songs (orly)
Otherwise I think this has eloquently put into words what I have been consciously blinding myself to... (cuz im not just into games, I'm into telephone cards)
Most of my contact with other anime fans has been in through the internet, and so far 90% were reasonable people who know how thing really are.
Well but then we have to consider I don't go to moeblob/bleach/narutard/yougetwhatImean fansites.
Oddly enough, I don't have much desire to visit 'Akiba'. It would be the easy, one-stop shop I guess, but what I REALLY want to do is travel to obscure little towns all over Japan, seeking old mom&pop toy, hobby and used book stores. Places where I might find surprising things at non-Otaku prices.
I have not been to Japan myself so excuse any ignorance, but am particularly interested in Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka museums. Please excuse me if these choices sound unenlightened.
The sex stores and electronics boutiques present an interesting dichotomy in Akihabara, mainly because they're entirely separate and don't seem to blend. Yes, you'll see 美少女 branded on the doors of pachinko parlors, but the electronics are (unfortunately?) pretty distanced culturally from the sexual vibe.
Out of the handful of sex shops I visited in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, Akihabara probably had the weirdest: floors dedicated to cosplay with pictures of (female) customers wearing said costumes displayed in the stairwells.
Unless you're looking for specific maid cafés or want to ogle the expensives prices in figure shops, I wouldn't call Akiba a one-stop shop for American fascination resolution.
I did pick up a nice 8GB flashdrive for $10 across the street from Super Potato though.
Ghibli Museum was kind of interesting, but given that I'm over the age of 13 it honestly didn't do much for me.
> Alex Leavitt
The crackdown on street performers came before the stabbing incident, but it provided the impetus to get rid of the pedestrian streets on Sundays.
If you have any to add...
It's been questioned and explained to death for years. It's one of the first things seasoned fans would tell the noobs 5 or 6 years ago. It's even a common and old subject over at dannychoo.com. You are beating a dead horse and for some reason seem to think it's new or uncommon info. I would provide sources but a simple google search will suffice.
1. With the prolonged economic stagnation that followed the collapse of the consumer-led bubble economy, the economic powers that be noticed that the otaku were the only sector of Japanese society upholding the noble traditional of obsessive, animalistic consumption.
2. As serious academics like the sociologist Miyadai Shinji have studied otaku culture, there's been the increasing realisation that despite their subcultural behaviour, otaku's values are actually very conservative and they pose no danger to the establishment the way their more radically politicised predecessors in the 60s student movement did. As a result they've been cautiously welcomed back into society like a sort of quirkily amusing errant cousin.
3. As someone's mentioned above, the government has noticed the popularity of anime overseas and has realised the political and economic benefits of promoting Akihabara as a cool place to be. It boosts tourism, and it also boosts Japan's soft power in the world, a bit like the way the British government uses music as a way of marketing the country's image abroad.
The result is that otaku are far more accepted within Japanese society now than they ever were, but in return the otaku themselves have traded in some of their subcultural outsider sense, in effect colluding with the establishment in commercialising themselves.
Anyway, everyone knows that the real hardcore otaku never go to Akiba. They've all uploaded their consciousnesses onto the net by now.
As to why maids and not hookers, or strip clubs, or the super dodgy maid cafes you get elsewhere, sometimes what you don't get to see makes it all the more exciting.
Heh takes different strokes to turn the world.
Truth be told though, while many might view Akihabara as a place for Otakus now (and probably is), I would really wish that it would evolve into something much bigger, say, a mega IT district that lives in harmony with whatever the anime/manga otaku subculture has to offer.
The only thing which is downright wrong is the part where the Yodobashi Camera mentioned as having been built last year. This is wrong, i'm not sure how many years ago it was opened but it was there when I visited in late 2006 and had been open for at least a year before that.
I see that you dislike Akihabara, but you attack piece amounts to little more than uninformed opinion.
>Akihabara embraced personal computer enthusiasts in the early 1990s
Technically the area started attracting computer nerds a bit earlier. In 1976 NEC launched its low-cost TK-80 microcomputer assembly kit for hobbyists (considered Japan's first home computer), and they opened a Bit-INN Service Center that same year on the seventh floor of the Radio Kaikan building in Akihabara to provide technical support to customers.
You seems to be really hung up on discrediting the place as simply a haven for smut and sex (although you can only cite a single venue for sex, which no longer exists...) The truth is that Akihabara is a unique part of Tokyo, a place unlike any other city in the world, with an interesting past and a varied and vibrant culture which encompasses all sorts of hobbies from model cars and planes, DIY electronics, audiophile systems, to video games, and of course anime and manga.
To deny that Akihabara is neither a subcultural hotspot, or that it even has a subculture, is an admission of your failure to have learned anything about the place.
There is no doubt that the people who regularly enjoy Akihabara tend to have similar hobbies and interests, styles of dress, patterns of behavior, and they share an in-group jargon...all the elements which define the very nature of a subculture.
While I'm not familiar with studies like Shinji Miyadai's, it seems a stretch to call the otaku socially conservative. Conservatism implies a well-defined desire to value and safeguard tradition, whereas the otaku culture is one of WITHDRAWAL from society, with the resulting apathy driving their attitudes toward it. This is especially evident by F.U.B.U. otaku literature like the Welcome to NHK novel and Faust 2 (which Jeff covered for CD), where the otaku characters literally relish a thorough detachment from normal activity, with their apathy eminently capable of translating to anti-social activity as such an individual 'snaps'. While it is true that otaku received recognition for their vigorous purchasing power, this does not seem to translate to social acceptance and I'd say that regular people are more likely to grudgingly acknowledge, rather than welcome, the presence of otaku.
Be careful, no one is denying that the otaku are a distinct social group with their own customs. I believe Sean's referring specifically to the supposed subculture of "otaku cool" which is a phantom manufactured as part of Japan's export culture that has nothing to do with the actual perception of otaku by the average Japanese.
You really missed my point. I never claimed there wasn't a subculture, just that it wasn't a COOL OTAKU subculture as portrayed by numerous people, like Choo and Galbraith.
As for denying it being a haven of sex and smut, have you seen what most of those shops sell?
I'm failing to see any actual argument in your comment, aside from being generally upset that I criticized Akihabara.
Well I think its Sean who should "be careful" with his words, if he in fact wrote something which he doesn't mean.
>Akihabara is not the epicenter of Japan’s cool otaku subculture, nor does that subculture even exist.
What the adjective "cool" is relative; one person's cool is another person's dasai...so what is he saying:
A) There is no otaku subculture in Akihabara.
B) Akihabara is not the epicenter of Japan’s cool otaku subculture, because that subculture is not actually cool.
C) "Otaku Cool" is a catch-phrase used to brand Akihabara as a subcultural hotspot. Which it is, but I don't like it because I'm uncomfortable around sexualized images of young women?
Yes I have. I don't watch anime or readh manage and don't consider myself an otaku, but I spent a significant amount of time in the area in order to research and produce my Akihabara audio tour (www.tokyorealtime.com)
There are shops there, and in other parts of Tokyo, which produce "junior idol" vidoes--which are portray sexualized images of girls as young as 12 years old. I find this deeply disturbing and I've personally confronted local ward council member (Kobayashi Takaya, Chiyoda-ku) to do more to crack down on that stuff.
With my Tokyo Realtime audio tour series I try to dispel a lot of the myths and stereotypes that people have about Tokyo neighborhoods. Just like Kabukicho, Akihabara has much more to offer than sex. You can buy all kinds of things in Akihabara and enjoy many forms of entertainment that have nothing to do sex at all. To say "most" of the shops are dealing with smut if a gross exaggeration.
I mentioned Densha Otoko, a hugely successful mainstream film and TV series with an otaku for a hero, who gets to date huge stars like Nakatani Miki and Ito Misaki (depending on which version). That such a mainstream media franchise could be spun out of otaku subculture (just YouTube the opening credit sequence for an example of its otaku cred) and one that presents Akihabara in such a positive light, shows how much attitudes have changed.
That the former prime minister of Japan, the right wing stroke victim lookalike Aso Taro, could talk openly about his love for Rosen Maiden and people (apart from that notorious grump Miyazaki Hayao) would think, "Oh, that shows a lovable, quirky, human side beneath his grizzled exterior," thus gaining the nickname "Japan's first otaku prime minister" shows that the stigma attached to otakudom has shrunk.
Miyadai Shinji hasn't had any of his work translated into English, so I've only heard his ideas secondhand (he was my wife's university professor and he's been quoted in other people's books) but Azuma Hiroki has identified in otaku what he calls an "affirmitive trend towards Japanese identity". Now admittedly, and I think correctly, Azuma believes is fraught with problems and contradictions, but the attitude, one of positively pursuing what basically amounts to a Japanese essentialist agenda, is one that supports rather than undermines the establishment.
A lot of the suspicion of subcultures in Japan comes from fear of something that holds different values from society and which might seek to undermine it. The 60s student radical movement that culminated in the "United Red Army Incident" and the popularity of fruitloop religious cults like Aum all had violent repecussions. Next to them, otaku culture is benign.
Let's face it, what does modern day otaku culture stand for? Almost religious levels of economic consumption, obsessive objectification of women, an attitude of "Japan Number One". How is this not conservative?
I have the impression that Max-kun considers not being 'into' anime and manga his own brand of 'cool'. So, looking at Akiba thru that lens leads to not being even able to see what we (or some of us, or you guys, whatever) see, because he doesn't have the proper 'mental language' to process the data.
He sees images of underage girls in funny outfits and says 'oh, that's probably dirty' while we go "ahhhh! MOE lolicon ero game crap!" because we understand the 'language' and subtext.
I get the impression Max-kun is a 'Mycon' otaku.
Stereotypes exist because of core truths. It's more foolish to attempt to pretend they don't exist.
I don't think you properly read this discussion or something.
Some of your comments directed at me seem misplaced. I think maybe you mistook statements and opinions made by others with my statements or something.
For example, you wrote: "He sees images of underage girls in funny outfits and says 'oh, that's probably dirty' while we go "ahhhh! MOE lolicon ero game crap!" because we understand the 'language' and subtext."
it was Sean in his article who repeatedly complains about the sex in Akiba
• It’s the sex and pornography that keeps Akihabara going
• ...the sex comes in other forms as well...
• ...arguing against the implicit sexual undertones of the maid cafe phenomenon is simply naive.
• ...in a country where actual sex for money is commonly offered in many forms.
• ready to spend serious money on their own sexual fulfillment
• 2D sexual fulfillment
I was actually teasing him for his obsession with sex, but I did condemn the under-age porn there in Akiba.
anyway, maybe I'm wrong, but I think you got confused about who said what…
>I have the impression that Max-kun considers not being 'into' anime and manga his own brand of 'cool'.
I spent ten of thousands of dollars and 9 months of my life producing an audio tour for the place with experts on the area:
-Patrick Macias - Author of "Cruising the Anime City" and editor of "Otaku USA Magazine"
-Morikawa Kaichiro - Professor at Meiji University & author of several books including "Learning from Akihabara"
-Danny Choo - blogger and Tokyo Stormtrooper
-Kobayashi Takaya - local ward councilman
-Mei-chan - female otaku and former sister café worker
You make it sound like I look down on these people…and that's just wrong.
I watched several anime to get familiar with the genre--such as Neon Genesis Evangelion--and worked several references to Serial Experiment Lain, Rozen Maiden, video games and sci fi classics into the sound design of my audio tour. But I'd be lying if I said I was into anime and manga. I'd only watched about 5 or 6 in my life and have only peeked at a few manga. That doesn't mean I look down on it. You assume too much. I don't play video games either, but I think there are some really amazing games out there.
Akiba is what it is: A mix of the awesome just alongside the unsavory, much like many other aspects of otakudom.
When I was in Akihabara, walking down Chuo-dori, the main street of the so-called Electric Town, all the tawdry porno stores I visited were relegated to side streets, hidden away from that main public street of Chuo-dori, and the erotica sections of places like Gamers and AsoBit City were relegated to the basement levels.
In that main street, where most of Akihabara's traffic is, were massive electronics and geekery department stores like Sofmap, Laox and the many iterations of AsoBit City, fast food outlets, massive game centers, and the like. Hardly anything tawdry, apart from the maids, who just hand out leaflets, or the occasional advertisement for a big name eroge.
As for a place to get drinks? Well, I went to the UDX Building, which is right next to the station (well, a certain exit of it anyway), and ate some okonomiyaki there, and it was still open at around nine...
If people stopped believing that Akihabara was a "soft culture trendsetter of the world" type of destination, then nobody would be willing to purchase his audio tour MP3s for $12. Why, the more times he posts, the more times his website URL appears on this very page! Instead of paying money to listen to someone who doesn't know what he's talking about rattle on about Japan, listen to MY podcast and get the same experience free of charge and exponentially longer! We plagiarize from Macias, Alt, McCarthy, Horn, Kelts, et al too, you know.
So fine, he stands to directly benefit if everyone out there writes off this post as shortsighted. But that's not the worst part of Max's replies. This is:
"I watched several anime to get familiar with the genre--such as Neon Genesis Evangelion--and worked several references to Serial Experiment Lain, Rozen Maiden..."
First off, anime is not a "genre." It is a "medium." Second, you knew nothing about anime but went straight to Evangelion and Rozen Maiden without first establishing any sort of foundation? This kind of cancerous behavior is precisely the sort of thing I wish to eradicate from this world. Step one: eliminate or discredit anyone who engages in or recommends such behavior. I'll think of what the second step is once the first step has taken dominance, and by that I mean Hajime no Ippo.
Why do I think Max Hodges is doing the same thing that was done with that failure of a Topless Robot post about how Robotech was better than Macross? Taking a directly oppositional and confrontational stance to garner attention?
Sort of what I'm doing, except I'm not as established and update less.
I did not misunderstand who said what, I was explaining how your lack of knowledge of one of the core functions of Akiba TODAY (anime and manga-5 years from now who knows) didn't prepare you to understand the 'hidden language' of the imagery all around you.
Listing the names of the people you interviewed doesn't impress me in the least. Listing various shows you 'worked into' the tour (audio references? you mean like clips of dialog or music? Gee, I hope you paid the proper and right licensing fees for that use in a commercial product.) because if what you did is say "and going into this store was like picking up a Navi in Lain!" then dude, that's called 'pandering' and that's the lowest way of attempting to connect with your target audience. You're pretending to a 'hipness' in knowledge you just don't have.
Pretty soon now 'Otaku Cool' is going to wear off and Akiba will turn sleazy again, looking like the 'used electronics' street fair of 'Dominion'.
*heh* Dude doesn't even know what 'Mycon' means.
1) 3/4 of the students in my Japanese classes are into anime and probably why they are learning Japanese in the first place
2) Many Americans do believe anime culture / anime/manga fans are mainstream. It is in that manga is in every convenient store, Anime is on television. But that is it. To most it is jsut like wallpaper, its there you can see it but you dont put much interest in it.
3) Many girls are disgusted by otaku. It is hard to get Japanese to be so definite or forthcoming about their likes and dislikes, but Japanese girls (the dozen or so I got to know well in Japan) didnt hesitate to to say outright "I hate otaku."
Or, Akiba will become the new Shibuya, à la Ressentiment manga.
'Mycon' is the Japanese 'loanword slang' term for home or personal computer circa 1981 or thereabouts. It was replaced by 'Pasocon' sometime in the late '80s or early '90s.
and now you know!
Thanks for sharing your opinions, but I have a hard time understanding the hostility. The only reason I mentioned my experience creating the tour, was because the original poster asked me, "Have you seen what most of the shops are selling?" So I replied, that yes, in fact, I spent a significant amount of time in the area because I produced a major production on Akihabara….
Anyway, I wanted to clear up a few misunderstandings which you seen to harbor. First you criticize me for my lack of knowledge, but I myself do not claim to be an expert on this subject matter. That's why I collaborated with Macias, Galbraith and others. Also you imply that I violated the intellectual property of others by using clips of dialog and music without properly licensing them. Well, why would you think that? Don’t you think it makes you look unnecessarily hostile and foolish to jump to uninformed conclusions like that? Seems like your just kicking and screaming about how much you hate me and my product, even though you've never met me and never heard my tour. Do you often criticize books and movies you've never read or seen? What's your problem man?
> because if what you did is say "and going into this store was like picking up a Navi in Lain!" then dude, that's called 'pandering' and that's the lowest way of attempting to connect with your target audience.
Who do you think is our target market? Do you think hardcore Otaku need an audio guided tour of the place?
I worked very hard to create a valuable experience for our customers. We are simply trying the help visitors discover and learn more about the area, find places that might otherwise never have known about, and gain historical and cultural insight. Why do you think that is such a bad thing? When people visit Tokyo some of them will want to visit Akihabara. Whether they are a hardcore otaku or not--whether it's a hub of "Japan Cool" "soft culture" or not--people have heard of it and will be curious to see what it's like to go there. So what if there is some sleazy? So what if Japan Cool is a tourism board branding catch-phrase. There is enough history, culture and unique shops to make Akihabara an interesting place to visit.
Oh, wait, I do need to address this:
"Also you imply that I violated the intellectual property of others by using clips of dialog and music without properly licensing them. Well, why would you think that? Don’t you think it makes you look unnecessarily hostile and foolish to jump to uninformed conclusions like that?"
No, no, not at all. I note you don't answer the question. Why do I think you may have done such a thing? Call it a hunch, based on observation, the sense of privilege and entitlement you show in your tone and phraseology. I would even wager that your reply will state some nonsene about 'fair use' and 'short clips are OK' and such like, which is true IN A REVIEW which your product is not.
I don't hate you, Max-kun. I don't really hate anybody. My hate is reserved for things that matter. Life is too short and I have better things to do. I'm still going thru my rental VHS tapes of Xabungle and I'm up to episode 16.
So if "Japan Cool" is a marketing gimmick, it's worth exposing that. So if Akihabara is a pretty sleazy place, it's worth pointing that out.
I think Sean gets frustrated by the dishonesty of a large portion of fan culture, that consumes all these highly sexualised images of girls and then has the chutzpah to claim there's nothing sexual about it. In the long run, all this stuff is deeply detrimental to the development of anime as a medium, and this is why he hammers down on the point so heavily.
As you say, the audio tour that you're selling isn't aimed at otaku and you have little interest in anime. Your interest is in selling Akihabara as a tourist destination, which is fine for tourists, natch. I get the impression that Sean's problem is with elements of fan culture treating this tourist destination as if it's something that it isn't.
What's happened is that you're a civilian who's stumbled with your little piece of travel journalism into the firing lines of a civil war between two factions of anime fan culture. Some people are shooting at you because you look like the enemy, others are just shouting at you, "Get your head down, you bloody fool!"
Anyway, it is something more than interesting that they Otaku people could build a Disneyland. Having suffered from a lot of misunderstandings that largely caused by themselves and their alleged peers, Otaku have finally accumulated their own cultural capital enough to mobilize a town as a whole and even subvert the national imaginary to a significant extent.
Official JAPanimation discours is nothing more than hoax to attract young voters, just taking advantage of its appeal to a certain block of consumers, so that the budget has never supported exporting genuine Otaku things but exclusively poured into least Otaku anime products, beause Otaku is the shame of the nation (the most frequently misreognized point) and thus should be invisible from the outside.
One notable aspect in Otaku culture is that most of them are illegitimated and still autonomous. Many of its consumers are more or less producers of what their peers consume at the same time. Their beloved charactors with stupidly gigantic-eyes are indispensable commons open to all. And Otaku culture is perhaps the only one exceptional market activity where commons-based-peer-production has taken place quite energetically.
If anything frustrating there, that would be because children always annoy adults by refusing being enlightened, especially when they wouldn't leave their own Disneyland fantasy, forgetting to go back home for dinner table with their parents waiting.
Sean says that Akihabara's "little more than a red light district, albeit one with a unique deviancy and a curfew." By contrast, Max Hodges here says that it's a "a unique part of Tokyo, a place unlike any other city in the world, with an interesting past and a varied and vibrant culture".
When I visited, Akihabara didn't seem anything like what either these people claim it is. It's just a place that is full of shops that sells anime goods, electronics, and doujinshi. All this and nothing more. It's like Roppongi Hills for geeks; a giant shopping district for arcade gamers.
Trying to claim it as anything else is just shouting words that don't mean what you think they mean.
Read the comment again, I think you're misunderstanding him
Of course 'Akiba' is all about selling an image with extremely tenuous links to reality. So is most entertainment. In my view, this makes it perfectly legitimate for anyone wanting to hustle some business to get down there and do just that. Pretending there is any kind of higher motive involved is unnecessary, unless you actually buy into the idea that image is more important than reality.
The Disney analogy is a good one - like the Magic Kingdom, 'Akiba' has an imaginary importance far in excess of its actual role in the life of the community. Its function is to make money from visitors, not create cultural value or meaning. (What's 'caveat emptor' in Japanese?) We invest it with what we need to sustain our self-image.
I go to Akibahara every time I go to Tokyo because observing the wildlife is fun, and because there's a VOLKS store. Besides, if you get off the main drag and into the backstreets there are some interesting survivals of more innocent times, not to mention useful places like a main post office and stores that sell real stuff. The teahouse where MASKED RIDER HIBIKI was set, a stone's throw and a world away from the chaos, is a real, functioning local business where people who live and work in the area drink salted plum tea and eat sweets.
I would be horrified to see Nakano go the same way, though. For me (and I would imagine for most of the residents) Tokyo will be destroyed when the last places to buy old-lady slippers, cheap crockery and shopping bags on wheels have been replaced by maid cafes and cosplay shops.
I hate to admit it, but nobody is going to watch The Spider And The Tulip first just because Leiji Matsumoto saw it when he was five years old... so you and I and the rest of the people you plaigarise will always be balanced on the fence between preaching to the choir and finding new and entertaining routes back to first principles.
Fred, I don't think your choices sound unenlightened at all. Spend a day in Takarazuka at the Tezuka Museum and you'll understand his pervasive influence on anime and manga better. Spend a day at the Ghibli Museum and you'll understand exactly how and why Disney has been able to rebrand Miyazaki for the West as the acceptable face of that violent sex-laden Japanimation stuff.
I would also suggest a visit to Tezuka World on Kyoto Station, not for the museum itself but purely because you can see Tezuka-based anime there that can't be seen anywhere else in the world.
I think the best advice anyone ever gave Steve and I about seeing Japan was to get a good bilingual map and wander off the main drag. We've found some wonderful places and had some great experiences doing just that.
However, Akihabara did have a lot of interesting shops I stumbled across. Whilst those back streets contained the dreaded corrupting eroge shops and porno stores, I found some pretty cool little things there. And the game centers. Can't forget those.
He had been present in a few conversations of Moe, Old School Anime, Akiba, Toy Events and the like while in Japan and each time he pretty much never had anything to say. Usually afterward he would toss up some post like above taking what he heard and tweaked it to fit his own personal online only voice. The writing style is all Sean yet the content usually belongs somebody else.
Sean is a old school fan who places himself in a higher level of enlightenment in the world of anime fans as he like to call the commoners "Japanophiles" or some nonsense along those lines. There is no hierarchy in being an anime fan. To the rest of the world we are all just grown ups still watching pointless cartoons, and in your case Sean live action Macross Frontier Porn (of your own free will).
@Alex Farrell I worked for the parent company of Akiba Today,(DH>DHE>AT) and yeah they ended going the Japanese corporate route so pretty much everything sent your way was hand picked by somebody in a suite. The original idea for the site was not what it ended up being. I'm glad it folded.
Oh and by the way I'm not hear to pimp the above mentioned tour either as being the original co-creator of the tour somehow I was over looked in the creation of this product.
I can sympathise with that, man. Sometimes I have trouble trying to get my own opinion in because I have trouble not talking over people or trying to get a word in edgewise...
In a lot of conversations I don't say a lot, mainly because I'm looking for a space to contribute.
I'm trying my best though, to try and talk more and be more talkative, so I can air my feelings out better. It's better than feeling like a ronerii waruufurouwaa...
If you desire to take someone down, at least KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUITE AND SUIT.
Or even 'hear' and 'here'.
I mean. Dude. Seriously. Totally bones your status.
"but readers should know with everything Sean seems to contribute to this site is all bias FLUFF"
You really don't get this site, do you?
It wasn’t ad hominem at all I simply wrote something quick before hitting the sheets last night. Here’s the meat and potatoes you though I was unable to provide. I think it is clearly obvious that colonydrop is not a gateway of any level of professionalism. Thanks but I would not take such childish advice you have given to me either on how to get my opinion across.
Here is a possible reason, maybe your friend needed to get away from the Ueno night life. Taito-Ｋu’s Ueno is the “Red Light District” of that specific Ku. There you will find more than a hand full of love hotels, Kabakura, Non-anime cosplay host bars, and your later mentioned hand job Maids on the west side of Chuo-dori behind Tsutaya. Even if you try to walk on the opposite side of the street to get a decent meal at TGI Fridays you can’t get more than a few feet with out being harassed for a massage, nomihodai karaoke, host club or getting your palm read. I guess you could go for a night stroll through Ueno Park, which if filled with homeless once the sun goes down. So perhaps your friend needed a break, and since like most tourist spots whether it is Ueno’s Ameoko Street, Akihabara, Asakusa or Harajuku after hours belongs to the residents who finally get some quite time. I could be wrong but as far as I know there is no “Red Light District” in Chiyoda-ku, there is however adult themed shops and services scattered around but for the most part the Ku is pretty much for Government and Businesses area and has the lowest residential population compared to the surrounding Ku’s. So yep after 9pm Akiba is empty and lifeless if all you plan on doing is walking down Chou-dori, even then there is a Royal Host and Denny’s aside from tons of open late Isakays if you are willing to tackle the Japanese only menu to get something as simple as a beer.
If that is how you see it I’m not going to get you to see other wise, it’s your opinion not mine. Akihabara is actually not in the middle of Chiyoda-ku, the Imperial Palace is. Akihabara is 4 to 5 blocks of a main street on the boarder of Bunkyo-Ku and Taito-Ku. The scale is hardly a over-merchandised shopping complex, you must be confused with Nakano Broadway.
Danny dances for his online followers, which he has hundreds possibly thousands but that if for him to step up to the plate on with you. The Otaku image of negativity is still present regardless of who is speaking out whether it be foreign or domestic. While living in Japan and traveling around I’ve meet people from all corners and I think I can count two times I got a negative first reaction of Otaku, only to be followed up by I want to go to Akihabara. Densha Otoko did what new Star Trek did for the franchise and made it somewhat cooler than it has ever been before.
Paragraph four & five:
Yodobashi Camera is going on 3 years now, the Ueno one is almost a year I think you are confused. Does pornography tie print and digital media together; I guess it does if that is what you are looking for. I totally agree sex comes in all forms for those seeking it. A good example I guess would be a BGC analog audio tape with the youngest teenager Nene soaking naked in a hot spring, would it not? Generalizing is something that you might want to read up on perhaps.
Akihabara has Maid Cafes and the rest of the world has a chain restraint known as Hooters. The only real difference is Hooters has better food but they both follow the same structure which has nothing to do with hand jobs. Hell I’m not lonely, I have a girlfriend and I go to maid cafes. When ever I make it to SDCC I usually make it to Hooters as well guess I’m just the exception to your rule.
So can you show me this “Profit” you are speaking of in detial? In my case I was lucky to have met Jane (Scott) Frasier back in the 90’s at Anime Expo (or Con) where I got to hear and ask questions first hand on her/his time spent in Japan. Plenty of what was said was valuable information and there was no internet or books published from anybody back then by those who lived here to help me share the joys of Kei and Yuri’s breasts. At least there are plenty of places to get good and bad information these days. So dispel the myth you are writing about. I can prove there are cool people (Otaku) who come to Akihabara and I can also point out the ones that reek of wet cat and litter box poo, but they are not the majority walking the street of Akihabara.
Mostly a regurgitation of prior bias, and yes the Japanese Government once pushed Otaku Culture as a tourist incentive but since you left Japan that party is no longer in control and that movement is how we say “History”.
Pretty good actually and well said up until your last sentence. If all you can do is reference something that took the lives of innocent people to make a lame bias point then you should give up writing all together.
There Jeff you happy now?
@Steve Harrison: Unless I'm getting paid for blog commenting revisions mistakes are going to be par for the coarse.... DUDE.
@dotdash: I get it. It's entertaining and I don't have a problem with getting flamed so have at it.
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS?
Secondly, I think CD is pretty open about its bias, so I find it baffling when people come on here and start getting upset about it.
"Danny dances for his online followers, which he has hundreds possibly thousands but that if for him to step up to the plate on with you."
I don't understand this at all.
"Unless I'm getting paid for blog commenting revisions mistakes are going to be par for the coarse.... DUDE."
Seriously, just a small investment in a couple of minutes of proofreading will reap huge dividends in the overall comprehensibility of your comments. Alternatively, just continue to mash the keyboard as you seem to have been doing until now, and make us poor sods do all the work trying to tease out meaning from the unpunctuated mass of non sequiturs you leave behind you. Jeez, the selfishness of some people!
"Ueno is the “Red Light District” of that specific Ku"
You're right, of course, but Ueno doesn't have legions of dippy fanboys proclaiming it the apotheosis of cool. I'm fairly sure this is Sean's point.
"So can you show me this “Profit” you are speaking of in detial?"
Surely this refers to the financial profit from tourism. If the area can be successfully rebranded as somewhere cool, that means more people want to go there, and that means more money. Hence "profit".
"Akihabara has Maid Cafes and the rest of the world has a chain restraint known as Hooters. The only real difference is Hooters has better food but they both follow the same structure which has nothing to do with hand jobs.
Nothing to do with hand jobs, but everything to do with sex. Seriously, does a girl have to be physically grabbing hold of your member before you notice that it's about sex?
"Hell I’m not lonely, I have a girlfriend and I go to maid cafes. When ever I make it to SDCC I usually make it to Hooters as well"
"I don't understand this at all."
Basically I'm not hear to talk for Danny Choo.
"Seriously, just a small investment in a couple..."
I'm the Typo King, live with it.
"You're right, of course, but Ueno doesn't have legions of dippy fanboys proclaiming it the apotheosis of cool. I'm fairly sure this is Sean's point."
Neither does Akihbara after 9pm. His point was why go there in the first place at that time of the day. I gave a very logical possibility why she chose to go to Akiba.
I've not seen a dime.
"Nothing to do with hand jobs, but everything to do with sex. Seriously, does a girl have to be physically grabbing hold of your member before you notice that it's about sex?"
Sex appeal and Sex are not the same thing. Try going into a Hooters and ask for a hand job it requires no physical contact then see what happens. I also said they follow the "same structure" which is sex appeal, even that only applies for some maid cafes in Akiba.
Ahhhhhhhhhh...... your such a sweetheart.
And don't get me started on the link between maid cafes and Hooters. They're almost the same, remoulded for differing cultural contexts: both offer food served to you by pretty young women in attractive costumes. Both of them keep their sexual frisson on the downlow. And both make merchandising off of the ladies that serve there.
Using Hear instead of Here is just ignorant.
Intentionally doing that is called 'trolling'
Still, walking in Japan is rarely time wasted. I must try that Palace-to-Tower route sometime.
It's back, BACK to Anderson fandom with you! Live with your secret shame of thinking that Terrahawks is the greatest thing Gerry ever did!
I kid, I jest, sorry. I just wanted to bash Terrahawks some more. If ANYTHING proved how much Gerry needed Silvia to rein in his foolishness, that show was it.
Wha? Oh, right, Japanimation. I long to wander about the streets and alleys looking for used book stores and old plastic model kits. I still suspect I'd find the more amazing things away from Akiba and other 'Otaku bait' places.
Yeah, I was hoping the Akiba Today project would be less lame commercialization when I started doing the translations, but oh well. If you happen to come across any other anime-related translation work opportunities, please let me know, as it would be nice to remain involved in the industry.
Daryl, please write a book soon to fill the gaps that will show up on store and library shelves as mine get pulped!
Some of the best stuff we found came up at fairs like Takarajima and the smaller fan-run stalls at Wonder Festival. There's a great store up north in Akita too...
I don't fundamentally object to making a buck, but at least be up front about it. People need to be actively informed when the person delivering a message has an agenda, and they need to know what that agenda is. For instance, MY agenda is clear: I want to enable the "balance teams / limit classes" options on the global Anime Team Deathmatch server we're all a part of.
Max: You sent me an email asking "why so HOSTILE, Daryl?" or at least that's what I assumed it said since you wrote it in 2 point font unreadable to human beings. My "short" answer is that you seem to not quite be aware that Danny Choo and Patrick Galbraith are the anime equivalent of Us Weekly, Entertainment Tonight, E! News Daily and such: firmly dedicated to being in the "present" such that the shelf life on what they cover is quite short. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this, as the present is ever-changing and most people want to know what's hot--incidentally, the sample issue of "What's Hot" magazine I got as a kid in the 1980s had ALF on the cover, so I assume that's what's hot--but you shouldn't go holding these people up as "the experts/scholars" any more than one shouldn't cite Janice Min or Mary Hart as such regarding the USA. Patrick Macias is cool, but in the interest of agenda disclosure I should note that I self-designated myself as the G1 Starscream to his Megatron.
Helen: Unfortunately, like Pyro from the second X-Men movie, I cannot yet create the flames; I can only manipulate them once something else generates a spark. I may yet discover the fire of originality, but for now I'm lagging in my undeclared race against Clarissa to see who can finish their copy of The Art of Osamu Tezuka first. Books may yet be out of my reach, but with my current level of acumen, if there was a 24 hour news network / AM talk radio station that needed an anime bobblehead, I could be that.
The Art of Osamu Tezuka and the adjacent copy of Swallowing the Earth are incidentally preventing me from what I "should" be doing: thinking about the part in Violence Jack where he gets riddled with bullets while standing for roughly 3 minutes as he tells the child to not look away, as this is the sort of thing that builds character if you endure through it. That scene incidentally is a metaphor for this very post.
To be fair, my "rebuttal", which was more intended to be a deconstruction when I realised our central arguments were too similar, and I just found Sean's generalisation of Japanese otaku as drooling perverts (no doubt borne from stumbling across Sankaku Complex too many times) and elevation of Choo and Galbraith just so he could knock them down to be the things I object to.
Try Kumamoto too for some totally unexpected nicely priced stuff.
Regarding the article, I do agree with the shift in computer and electronics stuff to mostly over hyped expensive tourist trap and un attractiveness and sameness of the stores and rising number of AV and jr Idol themed stores.
I only stop at Akihabara now to pick up recently released CD's with a 20% discount at Liberty, from time to time.
For the rest I tend to avoid Akihabara because of the hype and the larger numbers of tourists each time I do manage to stop over. It's one of the reasons I mostly avoid Tokyo now a days.
Daryl: my money is on Clarissa finishing The Art of Osamu Tezuka first, because she doesn't keep breaking off to post on Colony Drop.
"...Let's face it, what does modern day otaku culture stand for? Almost religious levels of economic consumption, obsessive objectification of women, an attitude of "Japan Number One". How is this not conservative?"
I guess whether these otaku can be considered conservative also depends on two more things:
(a) are these otaku sexist, racist, etc.?
(b) are sexism, racism, etc. conservative?
I don't think there is justification for assuming that conservatives are inherently sexist and/or racist - not only because I know many conservatives who are neither, but also because historically some of the most conservative movements and societies have been either non-sexist or non-racist (though very few have been both.) In modern times, sexism and racism seem to operate more on a level of possessiveness/ defensiveness about scarce resources and control/ loss of power. So I don't think sexism or racism are inherently conservative, or that conservatives are inherently sexist or racist. There are plenty of extremely sexist socialists out there - look at the use of abortion instead of vasectomy as a means of limiting population in China.
Sexists and racists exist, and some of them are otaku, but that doesn't make all otaku sexist and racist - as you acknowledge by framing your question with "these otaku" rather than simply "otaku".
Otaku culture may well turn out to be a relatively transient subset of a wider social change in Japan and the developed world, as men try to redefine masculinity. As Zhou En-Lai observed when asked to give his opinion of the success of the French Revolution, it's much too early to say.
(a) are these otaku sexist, racist, etc.?
(b) are sexism, racism, etc. conservative? "
This might take some time...
Otaku culture is a difficult thing to pin down, since it's gone through a number of generations and has manifestations in different countries, but since the current generation of Japanese otaku are the ones most studied and the only ones with any power or influence over what gets made, they're the ones I was talking about.
Also, (small "c") conservatism is a difficult beast to pin down since it's more of an attitude than a definitive set of rules, it manifests itself in different ways depending on the place and circumstances, and isn't always strictly divided by traditional left/right politics (whatever they are anyway). Generally speaking though, I don't think it's particularly radical of me to say that conservatism in a nation like Japan is characterised by (1) acceptance of the capitalist economic status quo, (2) resisting social change, (3) holding onto an idealised version of the past, and (4) some kind of at least gestural nod towards nationalism.
1) During the post-bubble economic dark days of the 90s, otaku were flag carriers for unbridled consumerism, and that has only accellerated with time. Economically at least, they did not withdraw from society, and their behaviour is no threat to the economic status quo.
2) Representation of women in recent anime is one of my bêtes noires, partly because I remember shows like Bubblegum Crisis. Exploitative trash, admittedly, but also a show where a hard-as-nails, female-led, all-female group kicked seven shades of hell out of crazy robots without being undermined and needing to be rescued by bland, ineffectual-looking yet somehow mystically endowed male audience avatars. The whole moé/maid thing is a retrograde step that, while it zaps your eyes to look at, when you examine it, it's just reinforcing traditional gender roles of weakness and subservience in women.
3) Not so much something that manifests itself particularly in anime, but rather an aspect of the culture itself, otaku culture's love affair with Edo period Japan has been well documented by Japanese writers and commentators like Okada Toshio, Murakami Takashi and Azuma Hiroki. Put simply, there has been an idea since the 80s that otaku culture is a direct descendent of Japan's Edo period merchant culture. Azuma thinks it's bollocks, but it doesn't matter whether you agree with it or not; the important thing is the existence within otaku culture of this reaching back to the past and to traditions, rather than trying to overturn tradition.
4) I've written about nationalism in anime at great length on my own blog and I don't want to repeat it here (link to very long article here: http://plotshield.blogspot.com/2008/06/kamichu-part-2-japanese-national.html). Otaku culture has its Mishima Yukio wannabes of course, but generally it's not a particularly threatening kind of nationalism, and it's certainly nothing to trouble the establishment (also, for the record, I have not at any time mentioned racism. That's an entire different ball of faeces.)
A person may not be "a conservative" but still hold conservative attitudes. Similarly a culture may be generally characterised by conservative traits but not everyone in it has to be "a conservative". I think these points are self-evident. Also, the position will change relative to your point of comparison. If you compare it with China, Japanese otaku culture is, I don't know, probably the same generalised liberal-democratic culture you find all over the place. My contention is just that taken as part of Japanese society as a whole, otaku culture tends towards the conservative side.
As you point out, otaku culture is changing (I hesitate to use the word "evolving") and it is certainly responding to "wider social change" as you put it. I couldn't agree with you more there.
At any rate, I agree with some of what this article states... There are many shops in Akiba that push 2D porn and other fabricated sexual fantasies for loner guys that will probably never experience the real deal. However, there is more to Akiba than the sex. When I worked down town, I would often stop by on my way home from work to hit the retro game arcade, pick up some cheap games, and enjoy a delicious Turkish kebab. Akiba is an enigma, and ultimately I feel that it is what you make it to be... To borrow from Obi Wan Kenobi, it is all relative to our point of view.
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