Akihabara, known as Electric Town, is the main district for all your gaming, electronics, and anime needs. Any requirements you have for coin operated mechanised crane gift winning cabinets will also be satisfied, appearing every three or four shops, with around seven levels of different machines.
Often you'll find other machines that allow you to win anything from the likes of a PS3 to an iPod. Pants are another possible prize.
Similarly to the majority of Tokyo, the streets are packed with locals and tourists, and a fair amount of hustle is necessary to navigate the pavements and stores.
Each store has the obligatory neon signage along with the odd gigantic LCD screen and blaring street-side speakers, whilst the Tokyo rail system shudders overhead at various intervals within the area.
Typical Akihabara views:
On the upper level of some of these stores, you'll find various arcade cabinets, often networked, and various card-based gaming systems, which are particularly intriguing to us westerners unfamiliar with such devices and card collecting:
These cabinets are coupled with store supplied ash trays, and lingering otaku girlfriends with little else to do.
There is one long main street that forms the main bulk of Akihabara, but similarly to the rest of Tokyo, multiple side streets offer smaller specialised stores from independent retailers.
One of the numerous side streets, also filled with electronics and the like:
You'll find multiple games stores, packed with the latest consoles and games at discounted prices, along with a huge number of bargain bins packed with pre-owned titles at a fraction of their original price.
Electronics, PCs and PC components also form the bulk of the main strip, and you can observe a dedicated Dell outlet above, sitting astride one of the bigger gaming stores.
Other outlets offer models featuring popular anime, game, and movie characters of all sorts and sizes, along with stocking the more standard Japanese doll culture such as Blythe.
Obviously many stores are orientated towards the ubiquitous Japanese mobile phone, although these aren't just unique to Akihabara - mobile phone stores seem to be have saturated the majority of shopping centres.
Japanese mobile devices are somewhat more sophisticated than their European cousins, featuring a bewildering array of options and configurability. Horizontal television playback seems to be the must-have technology at the moment.
Mobile use is unbelievably rife in every part of modern Japanese life, and it's not uncommon to be literally surrounded by a throng of people on their phones, either talking, texting, reading anime comics, looking up local mapping information, shopping or a variety of other things.
No Japanese mobile user is complete without a dodgy accessory attached to their phone. Literally every man woman and dog has to have some kind of glittery dangle attachment to a specifically made hole within the top of the phone.
See part three for the state of the Wii, DS, Xbox 360 and PS3 war in Akihabara. µ
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