TRIPPERS TIP: Make a Gizmo Pilgrimage to Akihabara

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By Benjamin Pratt | March 9, 2016

Spiderman Cosplay in Akihabara, Japan

Downtown Akihabara, Japan: a group of your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman crossing the street in Cosplay.

Every year – heck man, I’m even prepared to say every week – thousands of extreme finger fidgeters (better known as gamers) and nostalgic ‘90s kid are hitting Tokyo and heading straight to the frantic energy of the neon-lit tech paradise, Akihabara. Picture it like a shrine of everything gizmo and gadgetry that the west has happily appropriated.

Get off the train, uncomfortably notice the ‘No Up-Skirts’ sign in the subway on your way out, and straightaway it’s face-to-face with pulsating neon lights and sexy maids aggravating the senses; a labyrinth of DIY black market gadget stalls of bustling Japanese men yelling at each other; multi-story arcades within eyeshot every direction you look, echoing with boom-booms and pew-pews, blaring techno music out its doors while ¥100 coins burn a hole in your pocket. A clear epicenter of geek culture and – as a matter of historical fact – the spiritual home of Japan’s Otaku culture of manga and anime, the city radiates a traditionally mystic and techno-comic ambiance making for a hell of a wild ride, man.

Yeah sure, you probably already know all about Akihabara. It’s one of the best districts in Tokyo, so it’s not a secret. People have known about this place for the last decade; it’s the enclave of electrics in one of the most technologically innovative countries in the world. Freak, geek or gamer, it’s a trip you’ll wanna take more than once on your phantasmic voyage through a concrete oasis.

On Sundays the street is lined with CosPlay costumes and maids hustling coupons for bar specials, during the week school kids in uniform and briefcase carrying John Smiths are amongst a backdrop of manga shops selling boss level gaming paraphernalia, bookstores and the booming beats and blinking lights of electric mayhem.

If you’re into robotics there’s two places: Tsukumo and Vstone Robot Centre. Both have full displays for you to play with including robotic arms to fully built mechanoids.

Not a robot fan? Maybe manga and anime are more your flavour. Well, Akihabara has got that, too. Make sure you visit Toranoana and Takarada Musen, if you’re looking to discover some childhood nostalgia.

But my favourite part, and the reason I often undertake the short excursion to Akihabara when I’m in Tokyo is because this place is a retro gaming goldmine, literally a digital playground. And the die-hard gamer geeks of Akihabara don’t just limit their appreciation to Astroboy, Super Mario and Godzilla – this is the real deal, a paradise for every kind of ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia.

Akihabara is a gizmo pilgrimage into an electric town of cosmic holograms. There’s a wealth of ubiquitous stores native to the culture; a little store perched on the main strip called Retro Game Camp comes recommended, as well as a few others scattered around town, but my favourite and recommended retro entertainment enclave is Super Potato. An attic-like cave hovering over three stories above the Akihabara city streets, where you can spend hours on old table-top Nintendo games and hunting down forgotten consoles of yesteryear.

People used to trek days – sometimes months – on end to journey to a place of worship, healing, distraction and salvation – a place of spiritual significance. Akihabara has earned a reputation as a pilgrimage for modern day tech-headed-travelers and curious onlookers to make; but whether this morphing holographic shrine of entertainment paraphernalia is a trip destined for distraction or salvation, well, just press start to continue and find out for yourself.

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