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Akihabara: Fusion of Technology and Fantasy

SNA (Tokyo) — Akihabara symbolizes more than any other location the high-technology, quirky image that Japan had established worldwide by the 1980s. In recent decades, Akihabara has also developed its own unique culture, which is recognized throughout Japan and beyond.


Narrator: Not far from Tokyo Station is one of the best known areas of Japan, it is Akihabara, which symbolizes more than any other location the high technology quirky image that Japan has established worldwide since the 1980s. After decades of sluggish economic growth, Akihabara may not quite have the aura of cutting-edge global power that it once did. But it remains the nation’s premier electric town for locals and international visitors alike.

Local Man 1: Of course, this is an era for electronics. There are many kinds of products. I buy my home computers here.

Narrator: Not strictly confined to electronics, Akihabara is also the place to go for various kinds of hobbyists or for those simply looking for the unusual.

Local Man 2: You can discover many different things here. It’s the place to come find hidden treasures

Narrator: At its origins, Akihabara was a location for black markets on the early postwar years where people could buy illicit items and supplies. It still preserves something of that atmosphere, even if almost everything traded here now is quite legal. On the other hand, Akihabara is located within Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, the same ward that includes the main buildings of the national government. There are literally hundreds of electronic shops here. Some of them very small operations, and some very large. As one might expect, electric town is also a brilliant site in the early evenings. It’s a great place to come after work to find that one little gizmo that you’ve been hunting for but were unable to find elsewhere, or you might want to go up market and purchase your very own robot.

Store Employee: Many customers say they haven’t seen such a robot before. Some feel that robots are too complex. But when they get a chance to interact directly they realize it is something they can understand and recently some people are buying these robots.

Narrator: If you want, you can even hear from the robot directly.

Robot: By the way, my name is Nao. We have robots from all over the world here.

Narrator: In recent decades, Akihabara has developed its own unique culture which is recognized throughout Japan and beyond. One of the key words associated with Akihabara is otaku, which can be roughly translated into English as “nerd.” Akihabara is the nerd’s paradise based on some kind of fusion of technology, anime and, perhaps, social inadequacy, institutions such as the maid cafe have appeared.

Maid Cafe Staff: We have many foreign customers, men and women. This is the country of dreams. It makes you energetic. Everybody says ‘nyaa nyaa’ or ‘moe moe’. You can enter a fantasy world. We become happy and want people to come here.

Narrator: Love it or hate it, it is undeniable that Akihabara thrives on its own kind of energy. This is the Shingetsu News Agency, reporting from Tokyo.

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