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Tokyo's Geek Ghetto 488

anaesthetica writes "The Washington Post is running a story on Tokyo's "Geek Ghetto" which has arisen in the city's electronics retail district, "Electric Town." From the article: "We have been discriminated against for being different, but now we have come together and turned this neighborhood into a place of our own.... In Akihabara, we don't need to be ashamed of who we are and what we like.... We can feel comfortable because here, we outnumber everyone else." There are concerns, however, that the total immersion in escapist culture may be causing social problems, including a growing number of shut-ins." I've gone to Tokyo 3x and visited Akihabara all three times. Highly recommended for anime fans and techies.
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Tokyo's Geek Ghetto

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  • more details... (Score:5, Informative)

    by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:34PM (#12748973)
    i present for your enjoyment, the Akihabara [akiba.or.jp] home page, plus an intriguing article entitled: Akihabara becomes geek sex paradise [japantoday.com]. :-)))
  • by guyfromindia ( 812078 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:35PM (#12748983) Homepage
    I recently visited Tokyo, went to Akihabara.. and subsequently visited Singapore.
    I noticed that everything in Akihabara is very expensive. Buying the same stuff in Singapore is a LOT (I mean 30 - 40%) cheaper...
    But, one thing I agree.. you can get some really cool stuff in Akihabara...that you cannot find in Singapore, but for regular buys, I would avoid Akihabara.
    My 2c
  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Informative)

    by minority ( 23819 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:43PM (#12749092)
    is it a joke? don't be too generalized.
    if you go to Shinjuku or Shibuya in Tokyo, you would find that most people in the street are not geek!
    people in Akihabara (aka: Akiba) are so different to other district.
  • Re:Why not in the US (Score:3, Informative)

    by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:08PM (#12749456) Homepage
    I live in Manhattan and you can just run down to chinatown if you want that..
    There are entire malls dedicated to electronics and comics and figures..
    There is one "underground" one also that has all the latest games in Japanese as well, with individual sellers able to go in and set up a booth.
    The Japan society has huge anime and game conventions and there is a separate annual manga/anime convention in NY as well as Anime movie festival... SF is close, but not quite like it is here...
  • by theskeptic ( 699213 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:08PM (#12749459) Journal
    I saw this program more than 2 years back. It deals in detail with the phenomenon- hikikimori, mentioned briefly in the washpost article. Japan: The Missing Million [bbc.co.uk]. Here's the program transcript [bbc.co.uk]. It apparently is a big problem in Japan.
  • Re:akihabara (Score:3, Informative)

    by DragonC ( 169447 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:32PM (#12749782) Homepage
    Which is exactly the reason I wrote my book [up1.co.uk].

    If you go to the normal places you will pay over the odds. Mainly because they're priced that way to catch out the people who don't know whats going on. There are tricks to buying stuff in Akiba. Such as in many places you can haggle down the price. And you can get it even lower depending on who you ask to reduce the price (Usually the oldest guy there).

    Akiba is an excellant place to get cutting edge tech gear. But if you only stick to the common main street stores you will pay for it in the end.

  • Re:The button guy (Score:3, Informative)

    by ag0ny ( 59629 ) <javi@lavan[ ]ra.net ['dei' in gap]> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:40PM (#12749896) Homepage
    These photos are here [ag0ny.com], but please don't tell my wife or she'll cut my balls. ;)

    No thumbnails, by the way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:54PM (#12750114)
    .. Akihabara is just a commercial district full of very similar types of shops:- PC's, phones and technology.

    There is otherwise nothing special about the place, and (trust me, I live in Tokyo) _geeks_ _dont_ live there.

    Nobody lives there, it's a retail district in central Tokyo for heavens sake! Does anyone you know live on Times Square? Maybe a few wankers do, but who was the last bum-in-raincoat you knew who could afford the rent?

    Give me a break.

    Let me give you a quick tour of the neighbourhood (if you're planning the visit soon - or even if you're not)

    Akihabara is a couple of blocks near Akihabara Japan Rail station (from which it gets its name - funny that), within which there are ... say 100 - 150 retail establishments who all sell PC related stuff.

    [There are also a much smaller number of stores - say 3 or 4 - who sell electronics to hobbyists in its 1970's form: chips, soldering irons, 2 guys in a garage. Be very, very afraid America. The Japanese are still coming after you - when I say chips I don't mean 74xxxx TTL, I mean Xilinx FPGA's. Over the counter. With a guy behind the counter who knows what they are, and can help you get started. Like the old days. Get scared, you should be.]

    But that's another story.

    Akihabara? A couple of streets with 20 different versions of PC World, a couple of Wal Marts and some local Radio Shack variants (apart from those sinister hobbyist shops that spawn the evil Asians who will, *will* eat your lunch t/row)

    Nothin'. Nobody lives there. The article is totally overblown.

    I mean, I only go there once a month; and look at me - I'm a total sucker for this kind of stuff ("girls? what are girls?")

    Let me take you over the river, 300 meters away. "Music town" (my term, I invented it, I claim copyright): Ochanamizu.

    A similar district. A couple of streets with a lot of retail establishments all selling the same product lines.

    In this case, musical instruments (and related paraphenalia).

    You can walk there from "Electic Town". It will take about 10 minutes.

    Or you could take the subway. If you can stand the 2 changes you have to make because the Tokyo metro for this *particular* change is so damn inconvenient.

    That will take you about an hour. Better walk.

    There you will find ..... several dozen retail establishments selling ....

    All exactly the same range of products at exactly the same price....

    (It's the natural result of a free market you see. If everyone .... never mind, consult an economics proffessor)

    Forget it, don't get envious. You can find the same stuff in your home town (or online).

    And probably at better prices (I bought my iPod overseas - Australia actually, it was cheaper there)

  • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:08PM (#12750283) Journal
    However, if you are non-Asian you will still be regarded as a bit of a monkey on display at the zoo.
    Not in my experience, I spent two weeks there in 2001, mostly in Tokyo, a few days in Osaka and stayed with a friend (non-Japanese) living in Tsukuba and working at Kek Labs. (I got to go to Kek Labs too, call me an uber geek but that was a kick too.) I never noticed anyone staring at us at all. It's quite rude to stare and Japanese are quite good at at least keeping up the appearance of not being rude. They might give you little sideways looks out of curiosity but unless they're little kids they won't just stare at you. :)

    You don't have to leave to the US to get that whole monkey in the zoo effect though. I was visiting a friend in Nashville, TN and we went to the mall. Now I'm white, he was from Taiwan and we went another friend of his who was African-America (very dark-skinned as well). People stared at _ME_ the whole time. I'd never seen anything like it. Apparently they couldn't believe a white guy was hanging out with non-whites. My friends both said they were used to it and just ignored it, but it was an eye-opener to me. Racism is alive and well in the US.

    People may avoid sitting next to you on trains unless it is totally packed
    See now that's one of your Gaijin Powers (tm)! Even during rush hour there'll be more space around you than anyone who isn't foreign. :) It's actually kinda funny, but it's not unexpected, people are instinctively afraid of the unknown and foreigners are certainly unknown to many of them. At the same time though they're more than willing to try and help you if you need help, even if they don't speak English. I managed to get my ticket on the Shinkansen back from Osaka and the guy helping me didn't speak any English. I knew just a few words of Japanese (hello, thank you, excuse me basically) but we didn't have any trouble.

    I think part of the problem is they expect Americans to be rude (sadly we have this reputation just about world-wide). If you're polite and friendly they won't have any problems with you. I don't know why you'd be rude and hateful to someone when you're in a foreign country but apparently a lot of people are.

    Oh yes, it's funny that in only two weeks I got used to doing the little bow while thanking people. It felt strange to not have people do that when I got back to the US for a while. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#12750637)
    Yeah, I went both of them and I say Singapore is smaller, and cuter and cheaper. Problem sinpapore has is almost all are copied products and CDs on the are illegal for most of the people from the western countries, including Japan. If you don't care about it, sadly Hong Kong is the city to go. There is similar place to HongKong in South Korea as well. You know products in HongKong and South Korea do have Japanese origin they are merely copies... I really like Singapore, though. But you should know Akihabara is just another world you can go. It has its history as electorics(nerds?) city more than 100 years as well.

    Last month in Akihabara, I saw new WindoewsXP and Athlon dual core CPU in boxes and they were *GENUINE*. Also I became totally speechless when I saw someone are selling secondhand AIBOs on the street. wtf.
  • by AntoniusBlock1981 ( 888965 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @05:14PM (#12751706) Homepage
    re: North American/UK/Australian culture The term you are looking for is 'Anglosphere'. This also includes the culture of New Zealand, which you left out. / irate Kiwi
  • Re:more details... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @05:20PM (#12751766)
    i'm no japanese expert, but I always thought the "moe" movement was more about cuteness, but not necessarily sex-related.
  • Re:Lucky bastards (Score:2, Informative)

    by PakProtector ( 115173 ) <cevkiv@gmaiPARISl.com minus city> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @05:45PM (#12752017) Journal

    While I do not know off the top of my head what the word for 'geek/nerd' is in Japanese, I do know that the word Otaku (which is a very formal/polite way of saying 'you,' literally 'Your House') is in modern vernacular a derogatory term, meaning something along the lines of 'obsessed fan boy.'

    It's not something you call yourself, like 'geek' or 'nerd' in America. The stupidest thing you can do is call yourself 'otaku.' After having been a member of the (Sub)cult(ure) of Anime in this country for about eight years I stare in amazement at people who proudly announce they are otaku in broken japanese without ever knowing the cultural connotations of the word.

    It would be like proudly proclaiming yourself to be 'a serial child rapist and murderer' in America.

    Please look here [urbandictionary.com] and here [otakuunite.com] for more information.

  • Re:The button guy (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @09:12PM (#12753694)

    $ wget -r -l1 -A.jpg,.JPG http://www.ag0ny.com/misc/tgs2004/ [ag0ny.com]

    21:08:38 (584.31 KB/s) - `www.ag0ny.com/misc/tgs2004/DSC04249.JPG' saved [153,774/153,774]

    FINISHED --21:08:38--
    Downloaded: 31,207,867 bytes in 216 files

  • by soul_hk ( 607396 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @10:29PM (#12754159)
    I have been living in Hong Kong for the past few years.. We have a place called Mong Kok which is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. From Wiki : With one of the highest population densities in the world (It once attained 130 thousand people per square km, though the actual population didn't attain that much. Apparently the district was smaller than 1 square km). MK sells everything, in terms of "electrical" stuff, it would be enough to make the most season Akihabara shopper quiver. My point is, I found Akihabara quite a let down when I visited. For a true shopping extravaganza, try Mong Kok, HK.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost