Tokyo has a large nerd culture. Colossally large. So large, that the Japanese seem completely oblivious to how strange it is. While spotting someone dressed in costume Stateside is an oddity outside of Halloween, it’s par for the course in Tokyo.
As part of our nerdy Japan explorations, Mrs. Selfish and I decided we would visit some of Tokyo’s unique neighborhoods – in particular Akihabara, Shibuya, and Harajuku.
What were we looking for?
Akihabara – A Trip to Otaku Paradise
Our first stop in nerdy Japan was Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronic paradise. Akihabara has the reputation of having really cheap electronics, and while there are some deals to be had, by and large things are about as expensive as they are on Amazon.com.
It does have an amazing vibe, however, and is full of electronic megastores, curry restaurants, porn stores, maid cafes, and video game merchants – just about everything a man-boy could ever want.
Akihabara also has a number of arcades – institutions all but banished from North America. Since video games have largely made the jump into the home, Japanese arcades have all sorts of alternate forms of entertainment including UFO machines, pachinko, slot machines, darts, and photo booths.
Shopping in Shibuya
Next we headed to Shibuya, Tokyo’s shoppers’ paradise. Although there are tons of stores, it’s probably most famous for its cross-walk. Once the traffic lights hit red, the road becomes a pedestrian free-for-all.
Shibuya is filled with tons of small alleys with stores selling kitchen merchandise, food, drinks, and clothes. This area tends to attract crowds in their teens to twenties.
Fortunately, also sells cheap massages. While strolling by, Mrs. Selfish and I noticed a sign for an hour long shiatsu massage for only 2500 yen (~$25), a steal in anyone’s book.
If you’ve never had one, a shiatsu massage is a fully-clothed experience with a lot of hard pressure and stretching – similar to a thai massage in many ways. The massage at this place was so good, we ended up going three times!
Shibuya Station is also home to the Hachikō statue, based on the famously loyal dog of same name, who came to Shibuya Station to meet his master for 9 years after his master’s death.
Stalking Cosplayers in Harajuku
The last neighborhood we visited, was Harajuku. Harajuku is an extremely trendy district of Tokyo bordering Shibuya, and the Meiji Shrine. Most of its stores are frequented by Japanese teens.
Harajuku is home to some pretty famous trends, including the gothic lolita look – a frilly, dark style of dressing popularized by younger Japanese girls. It is also famous for its Sunday Cosplayer meet-ups.
If you’re trying to find Harajuku cosplayers, look no further than the northern exit of Harajuku station on Sunday between 1pm – 2:30pm. Mrs. Selfish and I showed up around 1:30pm, and the girls were starting to mill about.
Be warned, there are tons of photographers, so stake out a good position and start snapping!
All and all I counted around 50 cosplay girls. Truly an epic meet-up!
If you plan on visiting Tokyo, I highly recommend a visit to Akihabara, Shibuya, and Harajuku, especially if you’re looking to experience a slice of Japan’s nerd culture.