The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Idolness

There is, believe it or not, an AKB-48 cafe and shop in Akihabara.

Actually that’s not too unbelievable when you think about it.

In the long queues for the cafe (above) were a lot of the young otaku men that love this and other teenage idol groups.

Indeed the whole Akiba weirdness is big business now (the Nomura Institute, in 2004, estimated the spending power of Japan 2.85 million otaku as 290 billion yen) and also a source of soft power that pushes Japanese popular culture and exports abroad, a cause that was championed by the unashamedly geeky ex-prime-minister, Taro Aso.

Don’t get it myself, though some of it undeniably attractive, it is would be hard to freely admit that anywhere else than Japan. Though by many accounts the Otaku’s love of cute, erotic and animated alternative realties is increasingly becoming popular in other countries too.

The myriad and multi-level stores of Akihabara can be difficult to navigate for the uninitiated and it is difficult to know exactly what is and isn’t there. So about 50 business got together at the Belle Salle Akihabara event hall over the 8th and 9th of January as a sort of one-stop-see-it-all festival to all the place has to offer. (above) Electronic stores, that first gave the areas it obsessive character, set up shop next to toy, and hobby stores selling everything from remote-controlled helicopters to bikini-clad figurines and Roman armour. Visitors could also drive model trains, race scaletrix cars, shoot replica guns or watch robots fight. Downstairs idol groups performed on a small stage and a couple of maid cafes set up shop around a square of folding tables serving bottled drinks.

It was tacky, cheap and terrible yet I imagine if you’re into the the Otaku culture and the whole Akiba thing it must have been heaven there. Myself I couldn’t really join in as manga, animation and idol groups don’t do much for me. Photographically it was also a little dull, and a little crowded to take pictures, more of a trade show that hid all the good stuff behind the backs of lots of unattractive men. Couldn’t get close to the idol groups as the fan were dancing and wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the maids (as is always the case though did sneak the one above). I stayed a short while and then left to walk around the streets a bit more. There is more of the same outside and though it is equally hidden away when you go looking it looks better.

Anyway all for now, too tired to write better.

Later

Damon

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