Now, I have written about Akihabara many, many times here on xorsyst.com. Even though I have never been there before, I can probably name many of the stores there just by seeing the front door. You may want to check out my Google street view tour of Akihabara. So when I received my copy of The Akiba: A Manga Guide to Akihabara, I thought that I already knew most of the places that the book would talk about. I was wrong.
The Akiba is an excellent book for both those that are not familiar with Akihabara, as well as hardcore American Otaku looking for an excellent guide for the popular and smaller rarely talked about stores scattered across Akihabara. Japan Publications Trading publishes it and distributed by Kodansha, Japan’s largest and most respected distributor.
The Akiba is divided into two parts. First is a story about a couple living in Tokyo, Hiroshi, and Yoko. One day while leaving for work, Hiroshi tells Yoko that he will be a little late coming home because he wants to stop by Akiba after work. Yoko replies, “Akiba? You mean Akihabara?” We know she has no clue why Akihabara is so famous. Later on in the evening, Yoko hasn’t heard back from Hiroshi. Morning comes, and Hiroshi still isn’t home. Hiroshi has left his mobile phone at home, and Yoko calls up one of his contacts so that they can take her to Akihabara to find Hiroshi.
The guide to Akihabara is presented as a tour while Yoko is looking for Hiroshi. You may think this sounds a bit cheesy, but what’s cool about this is that while they hit the big spots like Tora no Ana, and the Cure Maid Cafe, they also show you those smaller, lesser known stores that you hardly hear about. For example, Audio Otaku frequent a store called Azabu Audio that specializes in speaker units, coils, and condensers. Chichibu Denki is known for their sub-notebook computers, but also for their oden vending machines located in front of the store. Things like that are sometimes missed when you read about them online, and The Akiba does a great job at presenting all that Akihabara has to offer.
Remember when I said the book is broken into two different parts? The latter half of the book is a shop and restaurant guide complete with addresses, phone numbers, pictures, websites, and even recommendations! It’s fitting that the first section is dedicated to Maid Cafes. There are quite a few listed, and I love that they include about 6-7 recommendations for each cafe including names and prices. It seems as though the author of the book had each Maid cafe write a little about themselves, what they specialize in, what’s to be expected when you set foot in the door, and what’s good to eat and drink.
The shop and restaurant guide is broken into the following categories:
- A map of Akihabara
- Maid Cafes
- Large retail stores
- Audio Equipment
I would recommend this guide if you’re a fan of Akihabara or are getting ready for a trip to Japan. For $15.56, The Akiba is well worth adding to your collection. I am a big fan of Japanese manga, and at first, I was a bit disappointed that The Akiba wasn’t written right to left like real manga is read. However, once I started reading, I see that they wanted The Akiba to be a book that anyone could pick up, not just those familiar with manga. Once I began to see how much great information was packed into the book, I quickly forgot about my one small gripe. Click here to check out The Akiba on Amazon.com.