There is a whole street of maid girls beckoning me to enter their café.

I changed my mind. Harajuku can have someone else.

I was born to live in Akihabara.

Akihabara is an area of Tokyo known for selling electronics. More specifically, it’s known as a center of “otaku” culture—you know, anime, manga, video games—all the stuff I know and love.

So this place.

Is my paradise.

The main street in Akihabara, or “Akiba” for short, is jammed with multi-story shops selling all sorts of goodies from the latest, trendiest anime series. Figurines, manga, DVDs, CDs…

As if that wasn’t good enough, the street is also filled with arcades. Except these aren’t American arcades, with those old, clunky games of skee-ball and whack-a-mole. No, these games are the latest and greatest. And people get hardcore about them.

I, for one, tried out this awesome taiko drumming game…

…and also my all-time favorite, Dance Dance Revolution.

One thing that surprised me, though—crane games are actually a huge thing here! We have them in America too—those rigged machines where you try to scoop a stuffed animal with an incompetent mechanical claw. Arcades here had floors full of these crane games. And they introduced all sorts of new gimmicks, such as

I thought they were impossible—but then I remembered that this is Japan, where level = Asian. And I saw a girl walk by with her bag of crane game prizes:

Not all of Akiba is shiny shiny fun time, though. Sometimes the stores would delve into… more mature culture.

Sometimes, you don’t even see it coming.

What really got me the most about this place, though, were the maid cafes. These (extremely expensive) restaurants feature little Japanese girls dressed in cutesy maid outfits, speaking in very high-pitched voices and acting as “kawaii” as possible. The entire street was full of maids, handing out flyers for their café. These themed cafes weren’t restricted to only maids, however. I saw schoolgirl cafes, catgirl cafes, even a schoolgirl-themed massage parlor. I’d like to not think too much about that one.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go to a maid café, which is extremely disappointing. Perhaps one day. But for now, I got to go to Akihabara—a place I’ve been dreaming of going to for ages! It was a beautiful thing.

Though now I’m down about ten million dollars. Hey, it’s not every day I get to go to Tokyo. It was worth it.

 

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Honey, we’re not in Tokyo anymore… oh wait, yes we are. (The Meiji Shrine)

For more pictures, check out my tumblr, which will be periodically updated with photos!

I can already tell. Our days are gonna be packed.

So many places. So many things. I’ve been experiencing a sensory overload.

Here is my first full day in Tokyo, in summary:

It’s exhausting to be sure, but my god. I’m in Tokyo! And as you can see: So many things! I don’t even know where to start writing about it. It’s been puzzling me for hours.

But I believe a good post should tell a story, so I’ll start with the story of the Meiji Jingu.

Anyone who has learned a bit about Japanese history knows about the Meiji Restoration, a period where Japan adopted Western culture while still maintaining Japanese traditions. Emperor Meiji tried to turn Western technology to Japan’s advantage, adopting what would be beneficial and ignoring that which was not. During this period Japan saw a lot of growth and innovation. This Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, are enshrined at the Meiji Jingu. The original shrine was actually destroyed in World War II, but was restored in 1958.

When I saw the entrance to the shrine, it surprised me. What was this peaceful, enclosed forest doing in the middle of urban Tokyo? I walked in and felt like I was out in the woods, not the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.

There was a long gravel path leading to the Meiji Jingu, with three large wooden gates coming before the shrine itself. Before I could enter the actual shrine, I had to purify myself: at a fountain, I had to scoop water into each hand and touch them to my mouth.

The shrine itself contains several buildings, each with a different function. At the main shrine, people were donating money and making wishes.

And for 500¥, you could write a wish on a wooden charm for the deities to fulfill.

We were there on a Sunday, when traditional Japanese weddings often take place. My group was lucky enough to see the procession!

And finally, all of the girls decided to get an omikuji, or a poem-drawing. Each omijuki consisted of a poem written by the late Emperor Meiji or Empress Shotoku, and what message that poem held for you. Here’s mine!

And did I mention that that was only the afternoon? It gets better in Harajuku.