There’s a place in Tokyo, Japan called Akihabara. Or, Akihabara Electric Town as some call it. Sounds positively Japanese, doesn’t it?
Located five minutes by rail from Tokyo Station, Akihabara is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime, and otaku goods, including new and used items. New items are mostly to be found on the main street, Ch??d?ri. With the introduction of the railway lines in the early 20th century, Akihabara became a popular destination for electrical supplies. Up into the 1990s it was a mecca for computers and computer games. Then the otaku came.
Otaku is a term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime and manga. Akihabara is full of them.
From an Otaku march last year.
… Patrick W. Galbraith arrives at the station. He’s dressed in a cosplay outfit — Goku from the anime/manga classic Dragon Ball Z. Clad in an orange jumpsuit and a totally ridiculous spiky- topped blond wig, the 24-year-old Alaskan proves an irresistible sight to Japanese people just off the train. He’s mobbed for pictures, posing with groups of girls, small children, and even tough-looking teenagers who engage in mock anime-style battles with him.
Galbraith works part-time for a multipurpose company called Akibanana that caters for the needs of every geek. “I feel in a way that I’m doing people a favor,” he says of his choice of tour-guide uniform. “They come out the station and think, ‘wow, this is a weird place,’ and then they are really in the mood to enjoy Akihabara.”
Akihabara has its roots as a black market locale for electronics in the postwar era. In the years of economic miracle-building that followed, it became a haven for consumer electronics and home appliances. The area was transformed by the PC boom of the 1990s when otaku took the area over and built a striking, virtual living room-writ-large for themselves in the process, filling it up with their hobbies and objects of desire.
…A few steps further down this alleyway, just across from the gleaming Cross Fields building, is the awful truth about Akihabara. It’s actually a hotbed of pornography (both animated and otherwise), adult toys, triple-X-rated manga, and photo books of under-aged girl idols that would burn a sane person’s eyeballs in their sockets.
Maid Cafes: Sometimes referred to as Meido cafe or Cosplay restaurants, where manga-style maids serve tea and cakes. When a customer enters the café, the maids typically give a flattering greeting such as “Welcome home, Master” in order to play the role of a house servant. Unlike “ordinary” cafés, maids serve customers as if they were their masters.
Railroad Cafes: The New thing?
The place is called Tetsudou Izakaya Little TGV. The “Little TGV” is run by a fictitious railroad company, Shin Akiba Denki Tetsudou (New Akihabara Electric Railroad), it’s decorated with all sorts of railroading items, and of course the waitresses have a specific greeting: “Thank you for boarding our train”
Train geekdom is actually a well-established obsession in Japan. So this cafe, though seemingly random, meets a very specific demand.