Day 11: Akihabara and Tokyo Tower
Finally, the day has come when we would do our pilgrimage to the land of otaku, Akihabara. It would also be one of the few areas still bustling with activity on this date, 1/1/2012, which is why we decided to put it off till now. As usual, we commuted by the Tokyo subway that took us to a station nearby, but not quite as central as the JR-owned Akihabara Electric Town Train Station.
The first place we found was Gamers, a multi-level anime/galge shop made famous by Lucky Star. The layout of the place had changed since the last time we were here 2 years ago, and the crazy crowd made it all the more confusing. Gamers no longer stocks gunpla and the rest of its stock has become more oriented towards obscure visual novels with a small amount of goods associated with recently popular anime. We found out later on that it had a very different selection of merchandise than that of its competitors around Akihabara.
With one of our party members feeling lucky and the rest of us succumbing to peer pressure, we joined the queue to buy a Fukubukuro which turned out to be full of random items and very heavy. Specifically, there was a sea of mobile cleaners mostly featuring penguins from the Disgaea franchise, a To Heart 2 mug, 2 boxes of boosters from different TCGs, a Kudwafter plushie, and a whole assortment of posters, one of which was ‘life’ size. If you were to calculate the total cost price of each individual item, it would come up to several times the price of the fukubukuro, but I wasn’t particularly gleefull about any of the items contained.
The building opposite Gamers which used to house smaller random anime goods shops was being renovated and so those shops moved somewhere further down the street. We scoured Akihabara for the next 2 hours, browsing mainly through figures, gunpla and AKB photos. Personally, I did not make many purchases today as I knew we would be returning later on in the trip.
The final place we were looking forward to seeing (again?) was Don Quixote, now notorious for the AKB48 theatre located at the top floor. Unbeknownst to us, this very day was when the AKB48 fukubukuros were being sold. Apparently you needed an email AND still be required to queue up in the wee hours of the morning in order to be able to enter the AKB48 shop and make any purchases. A veritable ocean of people occupied the streets around, showing off their albums of photos and making trades with each other.
Disappointed after being refused entry into the AKB48 shop, we left Akihabara, our hands full of loot. We decided to return to the hotel to drop off the accumulated items and take a rest before heading out to Tokyo Tower.
It was already dark by the time we arrived at Tokyo Tower and so we would not be able to enjoy a daylight view from the top. From the outside, the tower in full illumination was quite impressive. It looked alot like the Eiffel Tower, but more brightly lit, and with an ugly cube of a shopping mall underneath.
After paying for our tickets, we were squeezed into yet another over-full lift that took us to the lower observation deck. The view was nice, with landmarks such as the rainbow bridge and Azabu-jan highway clearly recognizable. One of our party members wanted to see the higher observation deck so the rest of us found seats and whiled away our time surfing the internet on our gadgets. I would have made another circuit if not for the crazy crowd occupying every single window. Japanese politeness would only allow me to spend a limited time staring out the window before I felt like I was being a rude gaijin.
Once we were done with Tokyo Tower, it was time to head back to the hotel to look over our spoils, play some card games, and watch whacky variety shows on TV.
Things learnt today:
- Do some research regarding possible events that may be happening at Akihabara. You might be missing out on something if you don’t.
- Don’t buy too much stuff unless you know for sure your next destination is back to the hotel.
- Tokyo Tower during offpeak periods will probably give a much better experience. Crowds are crazy.