This is the stuff of dreams for all anime or manga fanatics. It is the epitome of every fanboy and fangirl’s dreams if they are self-proclaimed otakus, although keep in mind, that this word is not really a positive one here in Japan, so it would probably be best to avoid referring to oneself as such. But this ward is for every cliché you could possibly be searching for, at least all the ones that I had from reading manga. I mean, that was where I first got my impressions of Japanese culture before I began researching and reading up on the country.
To jump right into the most stand-out thing, there are maid cafes galore. It is certainly not really a thing elsewhere, at least not from where I am from, which makes it a novelty for someone like me. All it really is, is a cafe but all the waitresses are in maid outfits and are very cutesy. Of course, there are some special ones in which they are cat maids so they have cat ears and act like cats, but it’s basically the same concept. Now before concerns are raised–in the West, this type of cafe might be met with worries about the sexuality of it, but to clarify, there is nothing untoward and unprofessional about it. Everything about it is entirely proper and is no different from the service of a typical restaurant. Sure, there may be a greater ratio of males attendance, but honestly speaking, my friends and I would be frequent visitors if we were served by something we liked a lot…which is probably why there is also a Gundam cafe and AKB48 Cafe also in Akihabara. These cafes are specified towards certain interests, just like back in the U.S. people will attend conventions based on what they like. That means that these places are not cheap. Usually, there is a fee to just to enter, which sounds not worth it, but I guess it makes sense because it is payment for the experience. In a group discussion I had in class, the general consensus is that these cafes exist because they attract tourists who find these places as novelties and want to try it out, and also local people who wish to see a fantasy come to life.
While walking the streets, I noticed an older gentleman with a tote illustrated with adorable anime figures on it. Thinking about it, I have seen many people on the trains reading manga, and it really struck me that what I consider as something more unique back at home is actually really common here in Japan. Everywhere around me, there are signs of this aspect of Japanese culture embedded, like with the numerous arcade rooms that offer the chance at limited edition figurines of popular works or the electronic banners that advertise the release of a new animated video game. Akihabara is like at the intersection between hi-tech electronics and illustrated works with the number of places you can purchase the latest games animated by the country known for its advanced technology. It definitely feels like the digital age when you are there.