In a weird twist that I
could nowhere see coming, I began to ignore Akihabara.
After years of squatting
on the fringes of electric town, the joke felt spent. The corridors of old junk
parts, increasingly haggard maids, and the usual otaku haunts seemed to have
reached an evolutionary impasse known as “kind of boring”. At least for me, anyways.
As my attention drifted
to Shibuya and Harajuku, I probably hadn’t even really gone to Akihabara much
in the last year except for Mandarake runs and last min gift shopping or BD-R DL grabs at
But last May, the AKB slapped
me upside the head and surprised me all over again. The missing ingredient was largely
this: going at night time.
Prodigious use of LED
lighting is changing the Tokyo landscape from blanket flat fluorescent into
unforgiving localized starbursts. Akihabara seems to be the epicenter of
how far that look can physically go and a walk down Chuo-dori – the main drag –
feels like it could do real damage to the optic nerve.
Also, I was struck by just
how dingy the neighborhood had become, especially in areas that were only
recently built or set to be revitalized. After all, around 2005, Akihabara made a bid to
become Japan’s swinging new tech center and the centers of power began to shift.
The gleaming NTT UDX center was meant to be a springboard for all manner of changes, physical and psychological. But the Japanese IT revolution
didn’t happen as planned and backstreet funk has leaked seemingly
everywhere since, over tourists and locals alike.
In my past writing on
Akihabara, I saw things in terms of a struggle between the weirdoes and the
straights, but I didn’t consider how large a role pure inertia would play in
changing the equation. Now, there’s something like a cross between Las Vegas,
Chinatown, a decaying mall, and a short circuiting Interzone to explore all over again. So here we go boldly in the future -- Phase transition from liquid to solid: Cold Japan.
"Otaku don’t get bullied for being nerds anymore. Yankii listen to idol music, yankii play video games – yankii are otaku. Back in the day, delinquents could join bosozoku bike gangs. But the cops clamped down on that scene, so geeking out is their only option. If all the kids are otaku, then it means that Japan is growing up otaku. The ossan are the only ones still blind to this fact."
Reiko was a shop girl at 6%DOKIDOKI who left the field right
before the colorful hallucinogenic Harajuku brand began going global. Not much
is known what happened to Reiko since then ...but not much was known about her
to begin with. She was taller than Yuka and left the scene soon after this pic
was taken to take care of her mom who had fallen ill.
Sebastian said she Reiko was “a wild girl”, and she seemed
to look like a day-glo Barbie doll that had been set on fire and left out in
the rain. Her style was considerably more frayed and distressed than the direction that Japanese pop fashion would
wind up going (consider Kyary or just look at Vani, her 6% shop girl
replacement). I resurrect this picture from my vaults in the hopes that time
does not forget her roughhewn texture: that of raver meets Shuji Terayama show girl.