I don’t know what Japan’s largest export is, but I think its most important export is culture. Pop culture to be precise; there are few places where as you walk the streets you see things you’ll see on fashion catwalks and in TV-show backdrops and and Paper pages this time next year; and Tokyo is one of them.
This time, the photos are from Akihabara, which gets more interesting every year. It’s always been a nerve center for electronics geeks, and I’m one I suppose, but I’ve always found the atmosphere unpleasant and the selection repetitious and the prices atrocious. In particular, you can see some weird high-end audio shit there, but it’s stacked up against a wall under fluorescent light in a charmless room with no comfy chairs in front to listen to music in.
Now, Akihabara has become a hot locus for Otaku nerds and the related-but-distinct Cosplay culture. The micro-micro-economics are complex, but the symptom is simple: they show up in surprising outfits and encourage you to take their picture, in exchange for, well, that’s less obvious.
The picture above is a scene I didn’t understand; these two very young women maintained these poses while dozens of camera geeks clustered to photograph them. They were engaged in the process, intently reviewing albums and proof-sheets and printouts of photos of themselves, autographing some of them. I saw no advertising or money changing hands. Might any of my commenters know what’s up? For example, are they aspiring stars promoting their careers?
Now, here’s just a bunch of kids looking cool.
Hard-core gadget geeks can still come here, they’ve got ’em all, but I don’t think its a good place for a gaijin to shop, the sticker prices are just not competitive with the rest of the world, so you have to know how to route around that.
There was one class of transaction that I understood, because they write it up in the Daily Yomiuri while I was there: Hot chick dresses up for the photo-geeks, but in exchange for photos they have to take leaflets for local Cosplay-supply stores.
If you’re going to go to a faraway land and put up with all the travel bullshit, at the very least you want to be surprised when you get there. Tokyo never fails.