Sunday, October 12, 2014

Akihabara: Land of the Weird

Last week I fulfilled the oddest work assignment I have had to date: attending an Alice Project 地下アイドル('underground idol') live show, and writing a review about it. Suffice to say, this was not your average AKB48 show. On the 7th floor of a Pasela building in Akihabara, I stepped into an odd world populated by girls in hockey masks wielding colorful chainsaws, girls in Wizard of Oz costumes and others in fake armor singing over remixed versions of Irish folk tunes. And don't forget the fans...

As an ethnomusicologist I am familiar with the fan culture surrounding idols, but have never seen it up close. I do have to say that they are extremely respectful, taking turns approaching the stage to whoop and call out to their favorite idol... but it was truly odd. Seeing them all sit on the floor when the girls were talking (in typical, high-pitched kawaii fashion) was quite a sight.

After the live show, I was taken around a few of the major maid cafes run by one of our clients. Yet more high-pitched voices and pouting ('Master, Milady, are you leaving already?!'). I did my utmost not to give into my desire to scream about the effects of sexualizing infantilized women, but it was a close thing.

As I walked back to Iwamoticho station, slightly dazed, I came across the highlight of my night: a congregation of weird vending machines.
Just in case you suddenly need a jar of assorted bells, a toy train or yakitori in a can. Some of the items on sale had been taken from their original packaging and placed into plastic jars (like the chocolate soccer balls and candy above).
I don't know if this is someone's personal hobby, or something set up for a clientele that doesn't like to interact with others much (perhaps hikikumori?). But, if you find yourself in Akiba late at night and need an aroma candle, a can of oden or a pack of emergency rations, this odd little corner awaits your patronage.


  1. We use the word 'otaku' in general for Anime- and Manga-fans in Germany, but only in Japan I found out what it really means o.O the whole nerd-culture here can be interesting, but also really gross ;(