Akihabara unplugged: Tokyo's electric town falls flat

Reg hack finds fancy dress maids playing darts, but few unique gadgets


To blame the local mayor for this turn of events, however, would only be telling half of the story.

IDC research VP Tomoaki Nakamura explained to El Reg that the area’s waning tech footprint can be seen as evidence of a maturing market, after first the appetite for commodity electronics in the 70s and then home PCs and notebooks in the 90s propelled Akiba to regional and international fame.

“In the technology area, the smartphone era has come and there is so little room for customising those gadgets, other than bumpers, protection films and other accessories,” he explained.

“But the most obvious reason why those small components shops are shut down is due to large constructions in the area and internet commerce, where people come to Yodobashi Akihabara to actually look at and touch the products and then order the products from home. Amazon delivers most of goods within a day for free – the price is much cheaper than the real mega shops.”

Maids, manga and darts

So if there’s not much tech of any noted on show in Akihabara, what’s all the fuss about? Well, the area has definitely adapted into something altogether more strange and uniquely Japanese.

Maid Cafe Akihabara

Taking root initially thanks to the same otaku who visited Akihabara to build and pimp their own computers, shops and cafes devoted to manga, cosplay and anime now dominate the area, turning it into a new Mecca for the nation’s comic book, dressy up, cartoon geeks.

If one also lumps in stores devoted to collectibles, or ‘Hobby shops’, which are frequently devoted to manga and cosplay themes, these cultural oddities now make up the vast majority of Akihabara.

Possibly the strangest to the foreign visitor is the phenomenon of the Maid Café. Spawned originally from the cosplay (basically fantasy dressing up) genre, these hang-outs are regular cafes serving regular drinks and food, except the punter is served by a girl wearing usually a French maid outfit.

Maid Cafe sign TGV

Beloved of certain otaku due to their talismanic appearance in many manga and anime series, these maids behave in an exaggerated deferential manner to their customers. When we arrived at one particular establishment we were greeted with a phrase which translates as “welcome home master”.

Food and drinks could be ordered with the tinkle of a strategically placed bell on the table and food was decorated with quite ridiculous flourishes.

A ketchup heart adorned my omelette with rice, for example.


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021