A travelogue by Raja Hairul, E-Commerce Manager AirAsiaExpedia –
There’s nothing I enjoy more than travelling and immersing myself in the bursting flavours and culture of each places I have visited. My recent trip to Tokyo was exhilarating with the ever so euphoric atmosphere surrounding the fascinating city – I was entranced by the destination, the culture and the people in more than a million ways.
What marked the icing on the cake was the trip to Akihabara, Tokyo’s famed home to a plethora of electronic gadgets and Japanese pop culture items. It is truly a haven for lovers of manga (Japanese comic book), anime (Japanese animation) and retro gaming.
Akihabara, located just a few minutes from the center of Tokyo by train, boasts hundreds of stores selling everything electronic, electric and digital, from household items to mobile phones, digital cameras and computers. It is not just renowned for its affordable prices, amazing variety and the latest gadgets; it has also become a mecca for those who are interested in Japanese pop culture, including anime, manga, trading cards, collectibles figurines and cosplay (costume play).
It was also the first area in the city that embraced technology – a place with a futuristic architecture that attracts the young, geeky gamers of Tokyo, also known as Otaku. I feel Otaku is a tricky term, which I am not sure I fully understand. It’s basically a slang term referring to fans of Japanese anime characters and series. If your appreciation of animation goes beyond Astro Boy and Mario Bros, then Akihabara is a wonderland waiting to be explored.
And, if you are visiting Akihabara for the first time like I was, my advice is to wander along Chuo Dori, the main street first, and then proceed to explore all the alleys that branch off from this boulevard. Make sure that you revisit the main street later, as it’s easy to miss things when you are still adapting to the area
Anime in Akihabara
For avid lovers of manga and anime, a good place to start is the Tokyo Anime Center, found on the fourth floor of the UDX Building of Akihabara. This place offers an enormous display relating to anime and anime figurines and distributes latest information in animation hence it’s known as the spiritual home of Japan’s culture of manga and anime.
You can also visit the nearby outlets such as Kotobukiya, specializing in action and pop culture figurines; Tsukumo Robot Kingdom, Japan’s first robot specialty store where you can purchase do-it-yourself robot kits and Animate, a chain of anime products and large manga collections.
For those who love mobile, digital and photography or just want to window shop, swing by this gigantic retail outlet that dominated the skyline – Yodobashi Camera. My inner geek showed himself, when I first arrived at Yodobashi as I was fascinated by the electronic offerings and vibrant ambience from the fluorescent signs, lights and merchandise.
My little discoveries whilst strolling through the boulevard also introduced me to the official cafés for Mobile Suit Gundam, a Japanese animation series featuring giant mobile suits piloted by humans and the AKB48 Café, a boutique café devoted to the massively popular J-pop group, AKB48 made up of 48 girls.
The spin-off cafes that are literally next to each other have been equally popular in attracting masses of young girl fans as well as adults. Taking in the sights, a visit to Akihabara is truly like a dream come true – one that I immensely enjoyed.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Apart from the regular tourist spots, another must-see excitement when you are in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market, a legendary and renowned wholesale fish market. In here you are bound to witness an impressive display of an entire ocean of fresh fish and seafood. And, your trip to Tokyo will not be complete without having a taste of fresh sashimi and sushi right from the legendary market for breakfast.
Undoubtedly, one will be spoilt for choice – with or without a queue, the standards of each outlet will not be too far off from the next. Try the Donburi, a large bowl of rice topped with seasonal sashimi, Aburi Toro, seared tuna sashimi and definitely, fresh Salmon sashimi. Honestly, I feel that the freshness of sashimi and sushi is so good that you will never see fresh Japanese food in the same light ever again.
My trip to Tokyo gave me enough adventures to satiate my hunger for my inner geek and new discoveries, yet allowed me to relax, rejuvenate and leave fully satisfied, and I will definitely return for more adventures around Japan!
Raja Hairul, the E-Commerce Manager for AirAsiaExpedia, is based in Malaysia and is an avid traveler with an enormous love for Japanese animation and comic books. He takes frequent short trips for adventurous getaways and discovers new cultures with his other half.