Akihabara. How to describe you? it was the LED lit bright pop culture ad ridden wonder hell of interesting sights that jumps into our heads when we think of the future. It made for a nice walk that afternoon for the contrast it played the srises and temples I’ve visited every step of the way.
So this is where all the kids hang out these days. The atmosphere is decidedly young and urban. The people gel their hair and wear baggy pants with limp hangung suspenders like the characters from their favourite cartoons. Music blasts from doorways, mixing into the crowds and the advertising lights like a bright loud cacophony of culture.
The streets are flooded with people moving from the station and into the shops. Buskers, some in costume, hang out of the door ways shouting deals and sales and new arrivals to whoever will listen. Young women in sultry French maid outfits with demure smiles shyly hand out flyers. Grown men scurry from shops that cater exclusively to My Little Kitty merchandise.
And that`s just by the train station.
A man walks past me eating a bowl of udon. It`s gently raining and I feel like I`m on the set for Bladerunner. I walk. Lost in the beat of angry electro music my footsteps blend in with ten thousand others.
I think it’s time I explore some of the shops.
The first is so youth culture oriented I nearly choke on my own Western pretensions. I feel out of place and on display. I leave and head into another. This one is filled with slot machines, but not the gambling type. Coin operaed toy machines. Put in the money, spin the wheel and a prize pod falls into the catch. Each one is a mystery, but part of some esoteric collector’s set.
I trade some bills for some coins and play a few games of plastic chance. I get pretty much what I expect:
A dreamy sumo wrestler in the middle of a push up. His face has a sly lover’s gaze. Another is a tiny waitress in a giant soda cup. Two prizes are flat plastic key chains with pictures of cats eating cake. Another is a girl with green hair.
To my right some high school students laugh at the prizes they get. To my left, a grown man in a business suit buys spin after spin at a machine that only seems to sell plastic minatures of boy school hunks. Something for everyone it seems.
I could spend all day in there, an eternity of quarters (or $100 yen coins as it were) and never see the same bizarre prize twice.
I move futher along, taking in more of the sights before I turn from the main street and into an alley. Alleys in Japan tend to be just as busy as the main streets, with businesses in every nook and cranny, often piled on top of each other several floors high. This alley was no different in that sense, but where it opened up to was.
I had found another alley filled with street vendors. Row after row of stalls, shielded from the rain by old tarps, filled with people hawking their wares and produce. Most of them were semi fresh looking fish, but I also saw mushrooms and veggies and plenty of dried food too.
After a while the scents and sights are too much. I leave the alley and find myself near Ueno station, along with the gardens and museums. I make my way there.