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Okay, now we get onto a more interesting topic! (And one more famous.)

I knew that Japan had some wonderful game shopping, but when I was younger I didn't know where one did this shopping. That was until I read an issue of the classic UK SNES mag Super Play and they had an exposé of Tokyo's electric city -- Akihabara!
Needless to say, I was left drooling over the magazine by the end of the article.

So, when I went to Japan, I finally had my chance to spend a whole day there, shopping, browsing, and just plain feeling the vibe from this great place. And I took lots of photos with my digital camera.

Inside Tokyo station, at a European restaurant that overlooks a revolving sushi restaurant. (The restaurant doesn't revolve, but the sushi does.)

Unfortunately, the computer on which I was storing said photos had a harddrive meltdown in August of 2003, so those photos, and many others, were gone forever. Then, I made another trip to Akihabara on February 8, 2004, so here are my photos from this trip. On this day, I had a few things to do in Tokyo, including meeting my old student for lunch, going to the Level X show, and shopping for a computer part, so my game-buying schedule was a little cramped.

"Two train accidents at the same time!!?!? Oh, my god! How dangerously are these trains driving?" you might ask... Actually, this probably means a suicide on the tracks, which is the most common cause for delay in Tokyo, it would seem.
Yes, I am THIS tall!

But first, I had to get around Tokyo Station, which can be a bit daunting at first. It's not so bad; once you get a feel for the lines, their tracks, and especially their names and respective colour coding, you can move around OK. (If you can read Japanese, don't think that I took the wrong direction in the above pics; I was heading to Ebisu to catch the Level X show.)

Okay, so here's the view from Akihabara station. Not much of a looker, but let's get to ground level.
Ah, now THIS is Akihabara! I remember seeing a photo of this exact location in a Super Play magazine back in 1993 or so. I had always been dreaming about it until I came to Japan.

Anyway, Akihabara was still a great place to go to... I found some new shops that I hadn't seen the first time around, including a store that only imported games and systems. This meant that they had American games (NES, Genesis, Master System, Atari Jaguar, Lynx) selling at ridiculously high prices (Oh, the money I could be making from my crap NES game collection...) as well as Hong Kong goodies such as the Game Theory Admiral, GBA Flash Cartridges, and so on. A cool place! (But not cool enough for a picture.)

Akihabara is dying, from recent reports. The computer parts and game shops are closing down or not doing so well. Meanwhile, the anime shops in Akihabara are growing and taking over. Oh, no! While I can get along well with game otakus, anime otakus just scare me.

It's like this for many blocks.

On the side streets in out-of-the-way places, it gets interesting. Street vendors are selling game ROMs for emulators on CDs. A customer chooses the label denoting the system they want ROMs for, and out comes the CDR. It was interesting to see... (I prefer the internet for that sort of thing, but...) It goes to show that you can get almost anything in this place.

Me like-a ze neon! She is-a beuutiful!
Look up, look wayyy up...

Akihabara is also a place crammed with computer stores selling goods at low prices. It would seem like the best place to find the gadget you always wanted. But, in retrospect, it's not such a good idea. If something goes wrong with your item, it's difficult to return from wherever (ie: Iwate) and get a refund at the store. Especially if they say "no refunds after you open the product package," (which is what they said to me, dammit!) Yes, the notion of "consumer rights" is not as valued in Japan as it is in North America.

OK, finally a picture of the inside of a game shop.
Here we are at the classic & "rare" corner, of course. A loose Hebereke for ¥5000??!? Ho-hum.

Ah, here's a typical small game store..."Trader." An interesting thing happened to me the first time I came here, in summer 2002. The shop had a sad-looking "bargain bin" with cheap and unwanted cartridge and CD games, all selling for ¥95 or so... So, I started searching through the bin, and then another guy did the same, and more came... they were all frantically rifling through this bin alongside me for God knows what reason. It was exactly like a shark feeding frenzy. I left the bin and stepped away to join my girlfriend, and we just watched the scene unravel: 5 or so seemingly normal guys/otakus digging like mad through a plastic bin 3'x3' across. It would have been amusing if it weren't so horrific. From where did they come, and why did they attack? Did they smell fresh blood? A foreigner gamer? What?

And so, this time in Akihabara, just to test my little theory, I went over to the little bin in Trader and started doing the same thing... The same thing happened with 3 other Japanese otakus joining in and piling up CDs and SFC carts, digging for that "something." It was funny, and I got some nice CDs for ¥95 each: Cosmic Fantasy 2, Vasteel, Tengai Makyou Kabuki Den, and Power Golf 2 for the PCE-CD, Woodstock for the Sega CD, and Wipeout 2 for the PS. They're all good for the music alone!

A large group of people started crowding around the TV in front of a game shop. What is it that has grabbed their attention so?
Ah, it's a superplay DVD of Gradius V! This game attracts crowds like nothing else.


Here I have visited one of my favourite shops in Akihabara... the now legendary "Super Potato". If there were a heaven for gamers, it would look like this.
However, the prices on most items seem to have risen diabolically. Not too many great deals here now.

Well, that's all for this Akihabara installment. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope I can write some more if I go there again.

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