In the summer of 2011, the crowded radio hall of Akihabara electric town closed its doors for the last time before undergoing a complete renovation. The depot, lying under the tracks of the Sobu railway line was famous for the hustle and bustle of mismatched stalls that cropped up post-WW2, selling cheap junk parts and various electronic appliances and knickknacks to teenagers. The hall fast became a well-loved icon of the Akihabara district. Its renewal comes as part of a steady string of changes, gradually transforming the neighbourhood in a constant evolution continuing to this present day.

The eighties and the nineties: an Otaku paradise



Back in the eighties, if you were looking for a Sony Walkman? Akihabara. The desktop computer? Akihabara. Rare CDs, game disks and foreign-made gaming systems like ATARI, otherwise impossible to find on the mainstream market? Akihabara. The 1980’s were the district’s electronic glory days. The first place in Japan to cater to Mackintosh customers was, of course, under the bright neon lights of the electric town. The district’s scope for high range appliances as well as cheap parts quickly granted its status as Tokyo’s Otaku paradise.



The 1990’s brought economic uncertainty in the electrical appliance sector, causing Akihabara’s gravitation towards the PC game software market. Shops selling gravure idol goods gradually emerged, this in turn sparking the conception of maid cafes and spaces for “idols you can meet” such as ‘Dear Stage’ - and of course who’s forgetting the AKB theatre, where now world-famous idol group AKB48 host their daily performances. These underground idols infused real, touchable human life into what was an empty town of circuit boards and lightbulbs, creating a new phenomenon, “2.5 dimensional” - dreams you could experience for yourself firsthand.

Otaku culture goes mainstream



As the Tsukuba Express railway opened at Akihabara station in 2005 and famous electronics chain Yodabashi Camera established their Akihabara branch, it was becoming clear that Otaku culture was heading to the mainstream.
With a boom in popularity of internet sites such as ‘Nico Nico Douga’ and the appearance of Vocaloid character Hatsune Miku on the scene, the Otaku army expanded out of the anime and gaming fields and onto the web for the first time. Comics chosen by users online began to circulate at comic book conventions, and shops such as Toranoana Akihabara opened to great demand, selling the best new rated comics and manga. The internet also brought with it internationalisation, expanding the Otaku ideology overseas and further advancing Akihabara’s cultural frontier.


近年では「男の娘のバー「New Typeのようなジェンダーの枠組みを飛び越えた存在や、「DMM.make akibaのような誰でもモノづくりができるラボもオープンするなど、常に新たな要素を飲み込む最先端の街として走り続けている秋葉原。閉館となったラジオ会館も、2014年7月に再オープン。昔ながらのジャンクパーツやガレージキットショップ、ドールショップなどが入り、さらに混沌を増した秋葉原を象徴するスポットになっている。

In recent years, establishments such as ‘Otoko no Musume Cafe and Bar Newtype’, where cross-dressing maids serve customers drinks, and interactive workshop spaces like ‘DMM.make akiba’ - a laboratory anybody can attend are on the rise. Akihabara’s consistent breaking of boundaries and pursuit of new creative ventures secures its place as Tokyo’s top avant-garde district. The old radio hall, too, finally reopened in July of 2014. Junk parts stalls just like old times, as well as garage tool shops, doll shops, and a whole other mish-mash of miscellaneous knickknacks has the depot more crowded and chaotic than ever before, and fast returning to its iconic state as Akihabara’s techie heaven.
Akihabara’s history consists of an unstoppable chain of changes and events, like chemical reactions each sparking the next stage in the spread of Otaku culture. It is a town that twists and turns along with the needs and desires of its patrons, unpredictable in its nature and forever evolving. Come nightfall, if you stop for a second at the Manseibashi crossing and close your eyes, the sounds of all the different goings-on of this semi-robotic town are enough to overwhelm even the biggest Otaku.


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