Scotty of Strange Parts takes a tour of Akihabara, Tokyo's geek culture headquarters


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/16/scotty-of-strange-parts-takes.html


#2

Such a fun place! The first time I went was with the crew of Super7, who threw together an impromptu several-day kaiju/toy-tour of Tokyo. What a riot, I will never forget it! :slight_smile:


#3

Someone has to open a RetroGame Camp Dungeon Store in the u.s.


#4

Last time I was in Japan was about 1984 or 85. Akihabara then had an old train station that was full of electronics parts stalls and stores. It was magnificent. I suppose it is no longer there.

Years later, I tried to convince the Cambridge, MA Community Development people that it would be good to think about something like Akihabara for Cambridge, near MIT, but the only like that is the monthly (from Spring to Autumn) MIT Flea
https://w1mx.mit.edu/flea-at-mit/
It’s pretty good but it’s only one Sunday a month.


#5


Love Japanese culture :blush:


Hate YouTube culture :rage:


#6

Neal Stephenson’s novel Cryptonomicon has a scene set in Akihabara:

“Many people,” Avi explains, “do not know that the word normally spelled and pronounced ‘nirvana’ can be more accurately transliterated ‘nirdvana’ or, arguably, ‘nerdvana.’ This is nerdvana. The nucleus around which Akihabara accreted. This is where the pasocon otaku go to get the stuff they need.”

" Pasocon otaku? "

“Personal computer nerds,” Avi says. “But as in so many other things, the Nipponese take it to an extreme that we barely imagine.”

The place is laid out precisely like an Asian food market: it is a maze of narrow aisles winding among tiny stalls, barely larger than phone booths, where merchants have their wares laid out for inspection. The first thing they see is a wire stall: at least a hundred reels of different types and gauges of wire in gaily hued plastic insulation. “How apropos!” Avi says, admiring the display, “we need to talk about wires.” It need not be stated that this place is a great venue for a conversation: the paths between the stalls are so narrow that they have to walk in single file. No one can follow them, or get close to them, here, without being ridiculously blatant. An array of soldering irons bristles wickedly, giving one stall the look of a martial arts store. Coffee-can-sized potentiometers are stacked in pyramids. “Tell me about wires,” Randy says.

“I don’t need to tell you how dependent we are on submarine cables,” Avi says.

" ‘We’ meaning the Crypt, or society in general?"

“Both. Obviously the Crypt can’t even function without communications linkages to the outside world. But the Internet and everything else are just as dependent on cables.”

A pasocon otaku in a trench coat, holding a plastic bowl as shopping cart, hunches over a display of gleaming copper toroidal coils that look to have been hand-polished by the owner. Finger-sized halogen spotlights mounted on an overhead rack emphasize their geometric perfection.

“So?”

“So, cables are vulnerable.”

They wander past a stall that specializes in banana plugs, with a sideline in alligator clips, arranged in colorful rosettes around disks of cardboard.

“Those cables used to be owned by PTAs. Which were basically just branches of governments. Hence they pretty much did what governments told them to. But the new cables going in today are owned and controlled by corporations beholden to no one except their investors. Puts certain governments in a position they don’t like very much.”

“Okay,” Randy says, “they used to have ultimate control over how information flowed between countries in that they ran the PTTs that ran the cables.”

“Yes.”

“Now they don’t.”

“That’s right. There’s been this big transfer of power that has taken place under their noses, without their having foreseen it.” Avi stops in front of a stall that sells LEDs in all manner of bubble-gum colors, packed into tiny boxes like ripe tropical fruits in crates, and standing up from cubes of foam like psychedelic mushrooms.

https://tentacle.net/~chrisr/bookshelf/Stephenson,%20Neal%20-%20Cryptonomicon/slide94.html


#7

OMG, what is this even? And why do I need it some much?


#8

I was SO GLAD that I just happened to have read about “Maid Cafes” before visiting Akihabara, or I would have been very confused about what on Earth the suggestively-costumed girls on every corner were advertising for!


#9

The maid cafes are quite a trip. Kinda expensive though. Besides the gachapon machines, there are also quite a few arcades with claw machines (like in Toy Story), but they are a ripoff - at least with the gachapon you are guaranteed to get a prize, even if it may be junk.


#10

I’d like to buy Scotty some chill.
He is hard for me to watch, or, more specifically, to listen to.


#11

Oh but sooooo many of them are filled with amazing things!!!


#12

I was on the fence, because it’s a little cold today and my apartment is warm and cozy, but seeing this post has reignited my desire. I think I’ll get off my lazy butt and go to Akihabara today. My favorite shop is called “Beep” and is the only place that put me one acquisition closer (Moonmist) to obtaining the 4 Infocom PC98 releases in Japan (Zork, Enchanter, Planetfall being the others). Maybe I’ll get lucky again today :crossed_fingers:


#13

I have been to Akiba a few times. It is cool, but there is really just one amazeballs old game store. The prices are reasonable, and they have some weird old gaming stuff! I am still kicking myself for not buying a Neo Geo for ~200usd the first time I went.

The electronics shops are cool, but no longer are JDM gadgets strange and different compared to the international market. Sad.

Maid cafes are strange and even as a horny 20-something I did not see the appeal. But the one time I went, I met a cool techie from California who was similarly there just to see what it was all about.

So. Many. Arcades. Agreed that the crane machines are ones you will never win. There is an art to assessing your chances with a single play, and I fear this might be my Xanthian talent. Ah well.

I did not check out the Linux cafe. But it was still there last time I went. I can only presume it was amazing, with amazing food, made to order any way you could possibly want, but with no menus and requiring arcane rituals to order.

All in all, neat. Definitely go. Just go early in the day, stuff does not stay open much into the evening.


#14

You have now entered The Uncannny Valley of Maneki-Neko Cats.


#15

I kind of think the real geek scene has long since moved to Shenzhen. Akihabara is geek tourism.


#16

Didn’t one of the major electronics (as in like, parts, not tvs) alley things close? Or am I misremembering?


#17

The boke-domo (slapstick fool) in the guise of the beckoning cat indicates that the vendor has also just arrived and decided to run a shop having decided that those things have a rarity and appeal that a light trade would help. You need it because it will make your She-Ra And The Princesses of Power dolls all appear to be Ethiopes. If they had aisle seats on the layover in Ababa.


#18

Yea something about those Youtube cover screens with those stupid faces just makes me absolutely not want to watch it.


#19

The anime Steins;Gate, which I heartily recommend, is largely based in and around Akihabara. Part of the plot revolves around the mysterious appearance in episode 1 of a crashed satellite on top of the old Radio Kaikan building. When the building was awaiting demolition in real life, shortly after the anime’s original run, a life-size model of the satellite was stuck on top of it:

N.B.: if you haven’t seen the anime, and think you might like to, and don’t want spoilers, don’t go Googling for this event. There’s a good chance that associated commentary will give away plot points.


#20

Not saying I don’t want or not cool. Do, is. But:
So. Much. Plastic.

So much. Everywhere. Early onset plastic phobia…(plastophobia)