Everything You’ve Dreamed of and So Much More

20141203_101313If there is anything in my life that has always been consistent, it is my love for video games and the gaming industry. I don’t remember much about Pre-K, elementary school, middle school, or even high school, but I can tell you about all the games that I played since I was 3 years old. That said, there are a handful of moments in my life that have helped me to define myself as a gaming enthusiast; my first console, the first time a game made me cry, my first E3 conference, my first job as a gaming journalist, and the first time I visited Akihabara in Tokyo, Japan.

For a gamer, anime fan, or connoisseur of all things Japanese, Akihabara is basically the Shangri-La for nerds and otaku everywhere. Imagine video games, collectibles, massive arcades, cosplay, delicious Japanese food, and maid cafés as far as the eye can see, and you will begin to understand the glory of Akihabara. It’s difficult to describe anything like this, because pictures and descriptions can never be measured against the actual experience. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. If you’re a gaming or anime aficionado like myself, here is a little bit about the otaku paradise you’ve been seeing in your dreams.

 

Gaming On a Whole Different Level

You think the West knows gaming? Think again! While Japanese games may not be as popular in the West as they once were, this in no way is an indication of the state of gaming in Japan. Akihabara is a condensed area of gaming and anime culture that has turned into a massive tourist attraction, so it is not the best means of determining the health of the industry, but it is still a great place to get an idea of what is hot in the gaming. However, let me warn you. If you’re walking into 5 story SEGA or Taito arcade center, you will not come out the same.

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Got no rhythm? Got no reason to be on this floor.

You think your skills at Just Dance 2014 make you a funky dance master? I think not. Try walking into the 3rd floor of a Taito arcade in Akihabara and attempt to “bring it” with any of the 30 different beat, music, rock band, or dance games crammed into a 600 square foot room. It’s truly a humbling experience when you fail miserably at a beat pad game only to be immediately annihilated and shamed by a first year middle school girl. If at first you don’t succeed, move on to the next floor. Silly gaijin (foreigner).

20141203_102004Even the games people in the West may be familiar with are taken to a whole different level. Think you know Mario Kart? Please! You’ve never experienced Mario Kart like this, and you never will outside of Japan. If you want to get in on this goodness, then you’re going to need to put down your Wiimote or Gamepad and pick up a plane ticket. Seriously, if you’re a gamer and you love the games coming out of Japan, then you owe it to yourself to visit this incredible gaming heaven.

20141129_191322With all of the wonderful gaming experiences waiting to be had in Akihabara, there is one warning that I must give to anyone visiting the arcade centers in Japan. Stay away from the UFO machines (aka. crane machines)! If you cherish your sanity and your money, then let me reiterate. Please stay away from the UFO machines. UFO machines are an incredibly popular draw for collectible enthusiasts in Japan, since they offer “exclusive” figures that you can only get at these places. You can quickly drop $50 in a matter of a minutes. I personally dropped about $60 trying to get a One Piece figure because I thought “exclusive” meant “exclusive.” In fact, the only reason I walked away with my prize is because the worker (shown in the picture) had mercy on me and “adjusted” the figure to make him easier to win. Unfortunately, after I had won my Zorro figure, I found one at a collectibles shop a block away for $20. I’ll leave you with this one example, but sadly, I actually dropped A LOT of money on more than one figure from these evil machines. Akihabara life lesson: Look and shop around before you drop big money on UFO toys. Don’t learn the hard way like I did.

 “Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?”

The games, maid cafés, and cosplayers are always fun, but for collectors like myself, the toys will your main attraction. If you like to collect statues, toys, or any other kind of video game or anime merchandise, your life will not be complete until you visit Akihabara. That may sound a bit extreme, but it is 100% accurate. The amount of toys you will find in Akihabara is quite simply life-changing. I actually had to buy 2 extra suit cases to bring everything back with me. Legend of Zelda figure? Check! Persona 4 figure? Check! Entire cast of over 30 One Piece figures? CHECK! The only bad aspect of the ungodly amount of toys you will be overwhelmed with is the limitations of your finances. However much money you think you need? Quadruple it! When you walk into the Kotobukiya store and see the Metal Gear Solid and Zone of the Enders statues lined up in magnificent fashion, you will be left breathless. When you see the prices, you may be left lifeless. If you’re ever able to go to Japan and make your way to Akihabara, you better make sure you have a few thousand saved up if you want to make the most of this collectible smorgasbord.

Experience Akihabara through Akiba’s Trip

For those of you who can’t afford to buy a plane ticket to Japan, I do have one potential solution that will allow you to enjoy the wonders of Akihabara from the comfort of your home. For those of you with a PlayStation 4 or PS Vita, you can always pick up Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed to roam the streets of Akihabara and see the sights. I realize that this is far from actually experiencing Japan’s “Otaku Town,” but you would be surprised to find how incredibly accurate this game is. Honestly, it might not be such a bad idea to play this game before visiting just to help yourself become acclimated with the area. I had such a great time playing this game when I got back and started writing this article. Being able to go see the Mr. Donut I ate at or the Taito Station I lost an unfathomable amount of money in is a nostalgic feeling that is absolutely priceless.  For now, enjoy the sights of Akihabara through my photo lens with the side-by-side comparison shots from Akiba’s Trip, and be sure to check out my Review of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed. Enjoy!

 

Actual Shots (Left)                             Akiba’s Trip Screenshots (Right)

About The Author

Derrick D
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Derrick has been an avid gamer since before he even started kindergarten. He is a video games enthusiast first and foremost and has a unconditional love for the gaming industry. His fun-loving personality, wide array of experiences, as well as his background in gaming and the film industry have helped him to develop a unique perspective that is always thoughtful and invariably entertaining.