Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Akihabara - Part 2

Note the cutesy anime-style character on the side of this building.

On Sundays (and national holidays) in Akihabara, the main street is closed off so that the vastly greater number of people can flood the streets and shop more easily. This makes that particular day a favorite for various types of shows and unique efforts to hawk one’s wares.

Ready, set, be a talking head!

You also sometimes see T.V. cameras set up and little news bits or commercials being shot on the street while such a wide expanse is available and such a pleasingly large crowd of people are around. I guess there also may be more to talk about because more happens on these days though increased attention has been directed toward Akihabara in general since it became a geek haven.

A "maid" is prepared for some picture-taking. My husband wanted to take more and better shots of this production but was shooed-off by the man in charge.

This makes Sunday an especially interesting time because you never know what sort of weirdness may be afoot.

I bet she envies the girls who get to wear pants and jackets and avoid the humiliating headdress.

While there are always people around handing out bits of paper, you’re likely to see a greater quantity and variety of them on Sundays so as to saturation paper bomb the plethora of passersby. Since there is a lot of competition for the attention of the pedestrians, dressing up increases the chances you’ll attract your target audience. Above, a young woman is dressed like a cow.

My husband tells me one reading of the Japanese character on the shop is "luck" so I guess there's an implication that imbibing milk is lucky.

I’m not sure why she is dressed as a cow but, if I were to put two and two together, I might conclude she’s shilling for the shop pictured above which appears to sell more varieties of milk than I ever suspected existed. The odd thing is that all these variations are almost certainly elixirs made from a base of cow milk. I’ve never seen anything as exotic as goat’s milk here, nor am I guessing I ever will. Still, the young woman in the bovine attire may be just another variation on some sort of cosplay fantasy establishment (like the maid cafes) though I shudder to think what the theme behind such a place might be.

During the Sunday my husband was there, he took pictures of a few different “shows” that were on offer. One was the young woman pictured above extolling the virtues of Phillips various shavers. When she wasn’t busy at the mic, she went around showing the displayed devices to various customers. I might note, incidentally, that facial hair is rare among Japanese men. Part of the reason for this is that most of them can’t really work up a good beard being that they are somewhat disadvantaged in the body hair department due to their genetic history. The other reason is that it’s somewhat frowned upon in the world of business drones who must look and act alike. You tend to see facial hair mainly on the types who aren’t going the salaryman route. Therefore, there must be a pretty solid customer base for these types of items.

Peter Norton must be thinking he wishes Symantec had changed the name when they bought his company.

The other show was this little comic-book-style display. If you were around during the early days of computer usage, you’ll remember when Norton software was promoted using the blandly pleasant face of Peter Norton. Now, we’ve got some Ultraman wannabe in a yellow costume fighting “viruses” in black to illustrate exactly what is going to happen in your PC if you purchase this fine anti-virus combating software. That’s right. When you get a virus, tiny little men in black are ripping apart your software byte by byte. Putting the installation CD for Norton anti-virus and clicking the install button sends a little yellow fellow speeding through your computer's innards where he kung-fu and karate chops his way through your system until the virus ninjas lie dead. You can see that the shows in Akihabara are not only entertaining but educational.

Any time the streets are opened up in Tokyo, there’s always a great risk of unbridled rowdiness breaking out so security precautions must be taken. Well, no, that’s not really true, but someone must worry about that remote possibility because every event of this type is patrolled by middle-aged cops who go around making sure everyone follows whatever rules have been arbitrarily applied. In this case, riding bicycles down the vast expanse of the open street is verboten and these guys are there to chastise you until you get off and walk your bike. I’m not sure what they’ll do if you don’t follow their instructions but I’m guessing a serious infraction may require the application of that small bull-horn.

If you’re going to make a sojourn to Akihabara, I recommend you do so on a Sunday when the streets are closed off and there is more action and strange happenings going on. It’s not that there isn’t plenty to do and see on other days but rather that most of the special events or unusual displays tend to be clustered on the weekend. You have a greater chance of getting more weirdness for your time spent though that “benefit” has to be off-set by the greater number of people who may clog your path.


Mark said...

Sounds Awesome! i Def want to see Akihabara. when im in Tokyo for the first time its going to be awesome.

PS... for shari.

Is there a way for me to get into e-mail contact with you?

Im a future Gaijin, im moving to Osaka in Dec. I think it would be cool to get some "real Advice" from some who knows that to really expect.

Shari said...

Hi, Mark, and thanks for your comment. The best way to get in touch with me via e-mail is to leave a "private" comment with your e-mail address (which I will not publish) and I'll e-mail you. This saves me from putting my e-mail address out there publicly (and saves you as well). Since I moderate comments, there's no danger of your e-mail address getting out in public.

Are you coming to teach or do some other work?