With its profusion of shops selling manga and games along with the ubiquitous maids trying to lure you to their cafes, Akihabara has become one of the most distinctive and interesting parts of Tokyo. It wasn’t always like this though. Here are what we consider to be some lesser known historical facts about Akihabara.
Source: Warren Antiola on Flickr
1. It Hasn’t Always Been Known as Akihabara
The Akihabara name only came about after a major conflagration in 1869 which cleared the once densely populated residential area leaving an open field which was retained as a fire break. Initially, it was actually known as Akibabara. The current pronunciation dates from the twentieth century.
2. “Electric Town” Started as a Black Market
After World War II there was a demand for radios and radio parts — met by open air vendors in Akihabara. This unregulated market was eventually brought under control by the Douglas Macarthur led GHQ, but the trend was started. The outdoor stalls moved indoors into dense alley-like malls. While many of these have disappeared, you can still see some on the left as you leave Akihabara Station from the electric town exit.
3. Akihabara was the Scene of One of Japan’s Biggest Mass Killings in Modern Times
At midday on Sunday, June 12th 2008, a solitary attacker drove a 2-ton rented truck into a crowd in Akihabara. He then jumped out of his vehicle and proceeded to stab people indiscriminately. In total, 7 people were killed and 10 were injured. One of the consequences of the attack was that the “hokousha tengoku” (pedestrian heaven — the closure of Chuo-dori to vehicular traffic so pedestrians can walk freely in the road) was suspended until 2011.
4. It was a Major Source of Income for the Aum Shinrikyo Death Cult
A normal weekday commute turned into a nightmare for thousands of people riding the Tokyo subway when the Aum Shinrikyo cult launched a sarin gas attack on multiple trains on the subway system. 13 people lost their lives and more than 6,000 were injured. Later, it was discovered that a major source of income was a successful Akihabara-based computer business which sold cheaply assembled computers. Since members lived communally and without money, Aum was able to assemble the computers more cheaply than anywhere else.
Source: Jesslee Cuizon on Flickr
5. The First Maid Cafe opened in March 2001
The very first cafe which kicked off the craze was Cure Maid Café which opened (and remains) on the sixth floor of a nondescript building just off Chuo-dori. The maid craze was allegedly inspired by the frilly but form fitting uniforms worn by the waitresses at the American-inspired Anna Miller restaurants that used to be dotted around Tokyo. Although the maid craze has died down somewhat, there are still dozens of cafes in the area — each trying something slightly different in order to stand out.
If you’re interested in Akihabara, Tokyo Cheapo is releasing a Cheapo’s Guide to Akihabara. You can find out more here. The guide is free to download on January 23rd.
Well, it didn’t take long.
The threat by IS to execute two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, in retaliation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge in Israel to help fight Islamic terrorism has already inspired an internet meme.
It comes amidst speculation that the original video posted by IS is actually a fake. In it, Goto and Yukawa are dressed in orange jumpsuits while a knife-wielding man says they will be killed unless a $200 million ransom (the amount Japan committed to fight IS) is received within 72 hours.
The hashtag #ISISクソコラグランプリ is seeing a lot of spoof images featuring the posing alleged Islamic State militant and his two captives, but with “extra” flourishes. (The meme hashtag — “shitty collage grand prix” — is a common one for sharing funny images online among Japanese netizens.)
These are a few of the many examples that have appeared so far, some of which are very inventive.
Here the hostages hold point cards for an electronics store.
Now the three have become the big personae non gratae of 2014: scientist Haruko Obokata, politician Ryutaro Nonomura, and composer Mamoru Samuragochi.
Surely this isn’t allowed for an Islamic State soldier? They are holding Tenga “onacup” sex toys!
Two of the three have become certain famous North Koreans posing for a photo.
Their faces are now decorating an itasha.
Dreaming of okonomiyaki…
When two lives are potentially in the balance, is this incredibly coldhearted? Or is it the only possible reaction to such a mindless act as to threaten to murder two innocent people for something their government has done?
Arguably, if the IS video does turn out to be a fake, then laughing at the extremists is the best policy. But if it’s real and Yukawa and Goto are killed (or are already dead), then the joke will definitely no longer be funny.
Cultures usually mark important anniversaries with a ceremony. In Japan they produce special food… in a can.
2015 is the fourth centenary of the death of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Shogun and whose rise to power signalled in the start of the stable Edo Period. To celebrate, Hagoromo Foods, probably most famous for their “sea chicken”, has created two special canned dishes with ingredients related to Ieyasu.
The “meat sauce” cans feature either eggplant or haccho miso, which is a specialty of Aichi Prefecture.
Priced ¥800, the cans are being sold only in Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures from January 16th.
Each can is 250 calories and serves 2-4 people.
The eggplant might sound a bit random but it’s associated with the idea of hatsuyume — the first dream of the year. Apparently the first Tokugawa ruled was fond of eggplant, along with Mt Fuji and falconry. So if in your first dream of the new year you see all three, then you are in for an auspicious twelve months.
Canned food in Japan can be pretty awesome, even the stuff sold at the convenience store. You can also spot some pretty original canned offerings at vending machines, including soups and desserts.
One of the top Japanese internet memes of the past few years finally becomes a real product.
The Nico Nico Douga Self-Switching-Off Robot was created by user Kairoshi as a video uploaded to his Nico Nico Douga channel. It is a “pointless” gadget: you flip the switch on top of the black box and then a hand appears to turn it back the other way. That’s it.
It apeared at the Nico Nico Gakkai Beta Symposium in 2013 and spawned many more videos like the one below.
Now this “useless” gadget that turns itself off has become an actual product so you can recreate the eternal battle of man versus machine.
It’s only been made in very limited numbers so don’t expect it to last very long.
Of course, the boffins among you will already know that Kairoshi’s gadget is a rift on the Ultimate Machine created by American mathematician Claude Shannon in the 1950′s. This plain box, conceived with Marvin Minsky, also switched itself off but otherwise did “nothing”.
The makers of the Kabuki Face Pack just keep on finding new source material for skin care tools that blow all the competition out of the water.
Now comes two face packs inspired by the popular manga and anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
The JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Face Pack is a genuine beauty tool, like regular face packs designed to reinvigorate your skin and help fight the signs of aging.
This time the masks are based on the Stone Mask and the Star Platinum. As JoJo fans will know, the Stone Mask was featured in the first story in the JoJo series, while the Star Platinum is the Stand of Jotaro Kujo, from Stardust Crusaders.
The pack includes both masks… so which do you want to be?!
While the name might imply traditional Japanese music, the “motion perform instrument” system is anything but historical, allowing you to “play” it intuitively through gesture recognition.
The makers describe as an instrument that “makes it possible to perform music by moving your body, without touching anything.”
It uses a patented technology that recognizes human movements and gestures so that the user can perform music freely.
It generates new music performance with visual effects.You can also append your voice to Kagura, arrange the tempo of music and where to put the sounds on the screen. And you can enjoy all of them by your gesture with the Intel RealSense 3D camera.
As The Bridge writes:
The Kagura app won the grand prize at the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge competition in 2013. The new version introduced at this time has been upgraded to support Intel RealSense 3D, a new technology available on PCs from Lenovo, Acer, and others, enabling an app to understand and respond to natural movement in 3D with a built-in camera.
However, vision analysis for playing instruments is conducted in 2D, so if you are satisfied with playing instruments only, the app can work with any Windows PC with a built-in camera regardless of whether it supports the RealSense technology.
Currently it is designed for 64-bit Windows 8.1 only, but sure a Mac version is coming soon? iOS and Android mobile versions are also in development. Otherwise, all you need is the app and a webcam.
There is no limit to how many people can “play” it at the same time, though the makers recommend one or two maximum, since it can only recognize two hands simultaneously.
Where can expect to see the Kagura? Well, at special live events, perhaps, since it will be ideal for taking the role of the DJ or VJ to the next level.
Here’s an earlier prototype they made showing how your dance creates music and graphics.
Let’s have this in the 2020 Olympic opening ceremony please!
Learn more and download the app on the Kagura website.
High-res & Analog Spincoaster Music Bar is Shinjuku/Yoyogi co-working space storing LP records for customersWritten by: William on January 15, 2015 at 8:28 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments
Music media Spincoaster has launched a new crowd-funding campaign on Makuake to create a music bar they claim is the world’s first to focus on LP and high-resolution audio.
Seating 17, the High-res & Analog Spincoaster Music Bar will play LP records at the request of customers and offer a “record keep” service where customer’s records can be stored for safekeeping at the bar.
This later service may seem strange to an outsider but in space-strapped Tokyo, it makes a very cool alternative to a storage unit rental. (In this way, it reminds of the “library bar” in Shibuya that also had a successful crowd-funding campaign last year.)
The makers are also selling the Music Bar as a daytime co-working space — a growing trend in Tokyo — with free Wi-Fi and fixed seats. The evening will see it transform more into the “bar” of its name.
At time of writing, they have already exceeded their initial funding goal of ¥1 million (about $10,000) with nearly 90 supporters, and with more than 36 days still to go they are continuing to collect funds. It seems Tokyo has enough analog music fans to keep this bar in business for a while.
It will open at the end of March, four minutes’ walk from JR Yoyogi or JR Shinjku stations.
More photos have been released for the upcoming stage musical version of beloved anime and manga “Naruto”.
“Naruto” recently ended its long, successful manga serialization, leaving the door open for a second life on film or stage.
As the publicity photos suggest, though, the new theatrical version has a grittier look than the manga. It is being dubbed a “live spectacle” rather than a play or musical, so expect lots of visuals rather than a sensical story.
Starring Kodai Matsuoka as Naruto, the jury’s still out on whether the adaptation will beguile or betray fans when the curtain goes up.
Starting in March, the production will tour four venues in Japan in Tokyo, Osaka, Miyagi and Fukuoka, before going on to Macao, Malaysia and Singapore.
Big-budget stage adaptations of manga and anime are a growing trend in Japan.
“One Piece” is being turned into a Kabuki play this autumn, while the spring sees “Death Note, the Musical”, with music by veteran American composer Frank Wildhorn.
Sexist or working to challenge stereotypes? This is a project bound to divide.
We might be forgiven for thinking that female students at Japan’s top college, the University of Tokyo, could be called brainy, or even nerdy. Heck, that doesn’t need to be a bad thing, right? Nor does it preclude being a nice person or having glamor.
Well, students at the University of Tokyo themselves seem to be worried about this. So worried, apparently, that they have persuaded a bunch of the college’s female enrolees to pose for photos in a campus club photo book.
Reports the Asahi Shimbun, Todai Bijo Zukan (University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia) first went on sale last May at a college event and sold out. It was followed by another volume, which increased the print run from 300 to 1,000. A third volume is set for release this May, a bonanza issue with portraits of 50 female cuties.
One student featured is Yu Yoshiuchi (22), who says, “At first, I thought it must be an indelicate project from a male standpoint. But it’s true people think female students in private universities are more cheerful, so I thought it would be great if we could change that impression.”
Most university students spend their college days obsessed with the opposite sex (or the same sex, if they are so inclined), but this state of affairs is chronic at the University of Tokyo, where the male-to-female student ratio is apparently 8-to-2! You can bet that the Stems UT club members who conceived the project had no shortage of volunteers to help scout female subjects and do the interviews and shoots.
The club members came up with the project because they wanted to “promote the fact that our school has a lot of cute women, even though many people may not think we do.”
The books also include the students’ scores on the standardized tests they took to enter the university as indicators of their intelligence.
So is this sexist? Or just a sweet way to try to change prevailing attitudes towards clever students?
You might think that after the whole Haruko Obokata fiasco, where the media went into a frenzy over a beautiful female Japanese scientist, that prestigious institutions might be treading carefully when it comes to this kind of area. Apparently the male undergrads don’t think so!
Let’s not worry about these ladies too much, though. As Yoshiuchi says, “If male students go too far (in the photo sessions), I make sure to stop them.”