Gah. I seem to be unable to write anything coherent, so I’ll stop trying and just throw something together.


One of the several neighborhoods I visited in Tokyo was the nerd mecca of Akihabara. Following the war, there was a black market in Akihabara selling electronic parts to students of the nearby technical college. This grew and became known as Electric Town. This is the old face of Akihabara.

Tokyo Akiba RC Sign

From the ’80s on, computer parts entered the scene. The neighborhood increasingly became a destination for nerds of all types, not just the radio enthusiasts and gadget freaks. Eventually, Akiba (as the abbreviation goes) came to be dominated by Japanese comics and animation culture. This is the current face of Akiba.

Tokyo Akiba Toranoana et al

You can still find the electronics shops, but they’ve been joined by maid cafes, thriving arcades (a dead or dying institution elsewhere), huge manga (Japanese comic book) stores, and numerous 24-hour internet cafes. On Sundays, the main street is closed to cars and all manner of strange street performances take place. Singers of both the professional and painfully amateur varieties do their thing, girls in outlandish costumes pose as crowds take pictures, groups of people do synchronized dances, and craziness abounds.


Tangentially related:

Only a bit nerdy and not at all fringe is the Ghibli Museum, a 30-minute train ride west of Tokyo’s central loop.

Mitaka Ghibli Totoro

Studio Ghibli is an animation film studio, best known in America for the movies Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away (both highly recommended if you haven’t seen them). The museum has exhibits on the science of animation, a mock studio with piles of reference material, sketches, and storyboards from Ghibli’s films, a mini theater showing short films that can only be seen at the museum (you get one viewing), and so on. The whole time I was there, I felt like skipping around giddily like the little girl in the picture above.

On the roof, there was a full-sized statue of a robot from Castle in the Sky.

Mitaka Ghibli Robot

Photography was forbidden indoors, but there are some pictures of the museum’s interior at the official website.


A few random things.

A wedding procession at Meiji Shrine.

Tokyo Meiji-jingu Wedding

A statue in honor of kamikaze pilots, outside the war museum at the ever-controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Tokyo Yasukuni Kamikaze

And a restored Mitsubishi Zero, inside the museum.

Tokyo Yasukuni Zero


Oof. Yasukuni warrants some background explanation, but I’ll forgo that in favor of just getting this entry posted.


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6 Responses to “Tokyo”

  1. Nicole Says:

    thank you, Kevin. Once again I really enjoyed your pictures (and I must say, our new computer screen here at home shows them much better than my screen at work, though my work compute is still faster!). Now I can SEE even more your attraction to Tokyo. …from ancient history and lasting rituals to those ‘fronts’ on the buildings in Akiba (which are quite something!). I’ll be waiting for your backgournd info on Yasukuni.

  2. Doug Says:

    I especially like the wedding procession picture, and maybe you can say more about it. Are the bride and groom walking under the red parasol? Is the man holding a fan or can you tell what that might be? Are the girls walking ahead of the parasol Shinto acolytes? And does the group just shuffle along or is there a sound track (maybe chanting or bells or something? Incense, too? It’s hard to say for sure but it appears that the people watching the procession are respectful. Is this something you’re likely to run into if you’re in the neighborhood of a shrine?

  3. Barthe Says:

    Do they use titanium parts in Akihabara? Christopher is setting up a new business invoving titanium from China. In case you’re curious, his web site is www.

  4. Barthe Says:

    Awk, I left a dash off in Christopher’s site. It really goes like this: Hmm, No I didn’t. I wonder why it isn’t all turning blue?
    Love again,

  5. kevinjames Says:

    In the wedding procession, the pair under the parasol are indeed the bride and groom, and yup, that’s a fan that the groom is holding. The girls are miko – shrine maidens. I can’t remember if there was any music accompanying the procession. I’m fairly certain that there was no incense, though. And as for how common these are, this is the first that I’ve encountered, but I imagine major shrines keep pretty busy. Little shrines probably don’t get many weddings.

    Re: titanium in Akihabara, I imagine it’s used for some things, but of course hardware in Akiba equals electronics, not “hardware store” type stuff. There are stores that sell nothing but transceivers, but I don’t know if there’s a place to go when you’re looking for bolts.

  6. Barthe Says:

    Christopher will be selling bolts to go on sailing boats. I guess you’d have to be on the waterfront to be familar with them. Now iron is used which deteriorates. Titaniam is much stronger but is very expensive here. It is cheap in China and I wondered if it was cheap in Japan also.
    My glasses frames are made of titanium.

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