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 Yodobashi Akiba.
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.