It must be said that despite such vaguely sinister Lolita/S&M overtones these establishments are very much above board, although one advert for a Maid massage looked a little more dubious.
Sadly we were not able to snap the inside of the café and those maids on the streets touting for business like downmarket geisha were equally unhelpful. However, you can see from these pics the kind of thing we’re taking about.
They even have themed Maid Cafes – one of which allowed punters to play said maids at darts, while the other catered to trainspotting otaku with a TGV-themed café.
As always with such sub-cultures in Japan, and elsewhere to be honest, smut is never very far away. The AV Factory depicted in this pic referring to porn, or ‘adult videos’ rather than audio visual cabling.
First Akihabara, then Japan?
It’s easy to speculate that Akihabara’s decline as a tech centre is symptomatic of the dramatic fall of Japan’s tech giants such as Sony and Sharp on the world stage, but the truth is more complex, according to the analysts.
Gartner research director Hiroyuki Shimizu told The Reg that such big name brands have suffered over the past 20 years from the commoditisation of electronics, and stiff competition from Taiwanese and Korean manufacturers.
“However, we consider that the biggest reason why the Japanese electronics industry is getting weak is the strict employment policy in Japan. It is almost impossible for Japanese companies to flexibly restructure their human resources. It is also difficult to close factories in Japan,” he added.
“In the global electronics market, companies focus on their differentiators. However, Japanese companies focused on the segments where they have plenty of human resources and large assets.”
IDC’s Nakamura strongly disagreed that Akihabara’s fading tech footprint could be linked to that of Japanese companies globally.
“The ‘hot products’ in Akiba were always imported from outside of Japan. Products were large enough and standardised enough that there was huge room for replacement of components for enhancing the user experience,” he told The Reg.
“There was little relation to Japanese technology industries then. Japanese tech firms were
trying to sell large TVs and stereos and commodities but those were not hot products in Akihabara. Now the PC market has reached maturity, other trends have come to Akihabara.”
It looks like they’re here to stay too. They even do guided tours of Akiba’s otaku hotspots. Or how about a master class in “cute decorative sushi roll making”? No? Ok then. ®
Re: Yes, we know.
"I can't understand why Japanese nerds are into manga. I'd think think comics of any sort too juvenile to be of interest to a nerd."
A "troll" icon would have been appropriate for your post if you weren't hiding behind the "Anonymous Coward" mask. First of all, individual nerds like what they happen to like. Some people are huge into Star Trek, others are big on Doctor Who, some build and launch model rockets, some enjoy video games, and then there are some who enjoy reading comic books and/or Japanese manga. Calling someone else's past time "juvenile" is throwing stones while living in a glass house, as I am sure that there are things that you're interested in that might not be seen as worthy pursuits by everyone else around you. You may not have to like what other people choose to spend their free time doing, but don't go badmouthing other peoples' interests either.
With that said, while in the West comic books and cartoons are often (unfortunately) seen as works that should be made primarily for children, in Japan that is not the case. In Japan, comic books and animation are seen as a medium, not a genre, and as a result you can have any kind of story, ranging from light-hearted stories meant for small children all the way up to dark and serious stories meant strictly for adults, placed in animated or comic book form. So calling the reading of all manga "juvenile" is painting with an overly broad brush, because many popular manga titles in Japan are specifically created for and read by adults. And besides, I don't know why you have determined that reading comics and manga has to be an exclusive pursuit. There is nothing that says that someone who enjoys reading comics or manga couldn't also be an avid BMX cyclist and/or enjoy working with technology as well.
But it is those independently owned places that still remain that are the gems - scratch under the surface, and find the hidden shops on the upper floors and you discover the remaining independent traders which made the area what it was. Radio Kaikan may be a hole in the ground, and there may be a different current visibly flowing through Akiba these days, and Den-Den Town in Osaka is slowly falling into the same trap (but still fantastic in it's own right), but stores such as Super Potato (which still sell original unwrapped mint copies of Gameboy Games out of the original carton that was found at the back of an old warehouse for only 300 yen a game), or the hard-to-find Arcade shops on the fringes of akiba (that will let you handle some of the rarest arcade boards known to man, and then sell you a mega pile of spare buttons and joysticks for only 25 pounds) are what really make those places shine.
And what have we got in London? Tottenham Court Road? I'd rather have a Maid Cafe than a DFS, and Yodobashi Camera than PC World, thank you very much....
Re: Two different planes of existence
Agreed, but in this respect at least, it is better here. Under their parents' observation, from around the age of three or four Japanese children tend to be allowed to use "handihanabi" - hand held fireworks that are a little less hot but more colourful than British sparklers. I was introduced to the soldering iron cafe through my eight year old daughter's (sadly) fleeting interest at Tokyo's Make07.
On a slightly related note, I was ashamed when I brought my children to the UK, to be required to leave a room full of toddlers because I had not been vetted. Social acceptance of default distrust disgusted me. It had apparently arisen during my absence and is thankfully not yet present in Japan.