Visiting Akihabara – An Epic Parenting Fail

Chances are if you are buying electronics in Tokyo you will go to Akihabara which has street upon street of stores devoted to the sale of electrical goods and  cameras.  Akihabara is also a centre for Otaku (geek) culture for those people really into their anime and manga.

some tips for visiting Akihabara with kids

Things to Do in Akhibara

Electronics Stores

I was pretty overwhelmed with the choice of stores of electrical goods.  Many of them cater specifically to the Japanese market and sales staff don’t speak much English.  You really need to know what you want to buy if you don’t speak Japanese.

 electronics district in Tokyo

Check out the store Super Potato! which is into retro gaming.  Although my kids know about Super Mario and Donkey Kong, I introduced them to other favourites from my childhood. Remember Pac Man?

 electronics district in Tokyo
I was drawn in by the Pac Man on Super Potato!

Maid Cafes and Other Dubious Places

Unlike Yodobashi which is located on the east side of Akihabara, many of the electronics stores are on the west side.  Following the crowds towards the west side of the station, the children and I had an eye-opening experience.

Visiting Akihabara the electronics district in Tokyo
No idea who this anime /manga character is

Well, technically, the kids were somewhat oblivious and I went to great efforts to keep them that way.  That was only after we walked into a sex store though.

My daughter was looking at cute fluffy bunny outfits which were right inside the entrance to a store when a horrified sales woman came running up to me.  She was waving her hands no and saying something in Japanese.  Over her head I could just make out a porn film playing on a television screen.  I grabbed my daughter’s hand and told her they only had big girl sizes and walked out.  Big parenting fail.

When you have any number of geeky people in one place, you are going to have places that meet their social needs.  There were quite a few pachinko parlours around.  Pachinko is a Japanese slot machine which people use for gambling because gambling itself is illegal in Japan.

 electronics district in Tokyo
Pachinko, something else for men to do with no social lives

Maid Cafes are where young women dress up as maids and cater to men (and women I hear) who visit.  The men are made to feel like kings in their own home.  Presumably they don’t have wives, girlfriends or significant others  (or at least ones who don’t feel like catering to their egos).

 electronics district in Tokyo
Maids from the Maid Cafes handing out leaflets.

I had to walk all the way around Akihabara station to find Yodobashi Camera.  Quite a few of the store windows had signs for sex toys, blow up dolls and other stuff.  Luckily most of it was in Japanese.  Of course, when things are in a different language, your eye is automatically drawn to the English words.

I was just waiting for a little voice to ask ‘mummy, what’s a dildo?’ Aaack.  I could not walk those streets fast enough.

otaku

Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara

I was told by my friend in Tokyo to go to Yodobashi Camera because I wanted to get a mirrorless camera.  I figured Tokyo would be a great place to buy a new camera because the Japanese love their photography and photographic equipment.

 electronics district in Tokyo
The entrance to Yodabashi Camera

Yodobashi is an enormous electronics store with 8 branches in Tokyo alone.  With nine floors, I felt that anything you could possibly want is there.  We stuck to the floor with the cameras which in itself was enormous.

You should note that all the prices are in yen but the helpful sale staff can calculate the price in US dollars.  Make sure you bring your passport so that you can get a tax refund.  You also need to research your prices because not everything is cheaper in Japan just because it is made there.

I was so frazzled by my inadvertent sex store experience that I opted to have lunch with the children on the 8th floor of Yodobashi.  As you would expect, there is a plethora of choice.  Not only do you have a Japanese cafeteria style place but there are also separate restaurants.  We chose to visit a noodle restaurant where we had an excellent meal.

My Olympus Mirrorless Camera

I was looking for a mirrorless camera for the times I didn’t want to haul the big DSLR around with me.  As much as I love the camera on my iPhone 6, sometimes I needed a more powerful lens. In addition, my iPhone’s memory was filling up quickly with all the photos and videos I took.  So I did my research online and settled on an Olympus OM-D model with a zoom lens.

What do I think of my Olympus OM-D?  My mirrorless camera is better for photos and video than my iPhone 6.  I still love my Canon EOS 6D DSLR with its choice of lenses.  I love the way it feels in my hand and the photos I take with it.

People say that the mirrorless cameras are just as good as the DSLRs. It depends on your model I would think and I did opt for a budget version.  Although my DSLR is still my favourite camera, I’m taking less photos with my smartphone in favour of my mirrorless Olympus.

Visiting Akihabara

Akihabara is massive train station which is served by both JR lines and Tokyo’s subway system. On Sunday afternoons, the main street, Chuo Dori, is pedestrian-only.  Most of the electronic stores seem to be open 7 days a week.

Yodobashi is right across the street from Akihabara station if you use the central exit.  If you have little kids with you, wander the streets at your own peril.  In retrospect, I would have been better off at the Yodobashi in Shinjuku which is a more mainstream part of Tokyo.

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This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust, Weekend Travel Inspiration and Photo Friday.

 

 

61 thoughts on “Visiting Akihabara – An Epic Parenting Fail”

  1. Oh my…it looks and sounds totally overwhelming. While I’m laughing away reading this, I can totally imagine how difficult it must’ve been distracting your kids and steering them away from places and things that can bring on questions you’re not ready to answer yet:-)

  2. I was laughing as I read this, but I’m sure it wasn’t funny to you at the time! I got lured by mistake into a maid cafe when I was there, realized what it was and marched right back out again. It disturbed me that they were dressed in what look like little girls’ dresses, but way too short. They behave in a flirtatious way (yes, even with me), but they talk in high, little-girl voices. What are they selling? They’re not prostitutes, but still convey a weirdly sexualized image.

    1. Yes they seem to fetishise girlhood. Do tell? What was the maid cafe like inside? Is it like someone’s home and they are playing maids? Or like a hotel and maid? Just curious. I’d never even considered that maids were a fetish symbol.

    1. No. It’s taken me 2 months to even write about it. My husband thought it was funny but he wouldn’t have if he was there.

  3. i guess the shop attendant was more concerned that you were. Not easy to keep the attention of the kids on something else when all is so “shiny”

    1. Indeed. I was trying to find the camera store when my daughter saw the bunny outfits. BTW the Japanese love cutesy so there were a lot of cutesy outfits.

    1. I’m sure my son in a few years will be all over the gaming stuff. It may not be the cheapest but it’ll be the newest.

  4. I’m not sure this blog makes me want to check out this area, especially the maid place (how weird!). But it certainly tells people what to expect if they do know. And give you insight into the quirks and contradictions of Japanese pop culture. fun read!

  5. Although it sounds like you had a stressful visit, your pictures look very nice and give a feel for the area. Your accidental experience among the sex shops reminds me of visiting Bourbon Street as a young adult and going to movies when I was younger having to ask my parents about things I wasn’t familiar with. My mom had to explain a lot of things to us, which I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled about, but at least I could get accurate information from her than from the rumor mill!

    1. I assume you mean Bourbon Street in New Orleans? Thanks for the heads up. We’ve not been there but I’ll wait a few years to take them there.

  6. wow what an amazing place to visit. Looks super cool with so much activity I believe it would be a bit too much for me and if I took c children I know I would be

  7. wow i’m not quite sure what to think about akihabara as it does not sound like there is anything for me there. for the people who do want to go there and will have kids with them i appreciate you sharing how to avoid some parenting fails because you could end up having some conversations earlier than you planned.

  8. Tokyo is always one of the best places to visit, there’s never a dull moment there! I’ve never been on this side of Tokyo before, it sure sounds fun!

  9. Wow…I’m almost overwhelmed by just the photos! There is so much happening there! lol I would be like you and pull a huge parenting fail not expecting to see some of the merchandise on display! lol

  10. I could just see that Japanese woman waving frantically. Made me smile as I imagined a few of the women I work with in that role.
    Your photos are lovely. Which camera did you use?

    1. I went without kids years ago and thought it was very cool. It’s only with the kids that I noticed the inappropriate stuff.

    1. They have the latest if everything! It is amazing. I think the sales guy thought I was lame for buying what I did. But as a Japanese he was too polite to roll his eyes.

  11. As a person who hates shopping, I would be totally – the most used word in the comments so far – overwhelmed here! I am glad you all came through the experienced unscathed! LOL Maybe spent more than you wanted but it was a good experience to share with others.

  12. What a culture shock! I’d never heard of a Maid Cafe before. I had to click on that to learn more. Looks like you had quite the experience and exposure with all those sex shops. Eeek!

  13. We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit Akihabara when we were in Tokyo. Although, after reading this, perhaps it is for the best as I’m rather sure that I would have also accidentally walked into a sex store. However, my kids would have LOVED Super Potato. Video gaming was their favorite part of our whole trip.

    1. Maybe that might have saved you some money? I had to repeatedly say no to their squeals of delight. Japan is a shoppers delight even if you are a non-sipping loving kid.

  14. Any time you are living in a different county it can provide challenges. That’s funny about walking into the porn shop – it’s good that that the sales lady was very responsive.

  15. Kids are curious so I can see how it would be challenging to steer them away from some of the things you mentioned, lol. Def. a visit to remember though, huh?

  16. Oh my! That story about the adult shop is mortifying. That one has to go on the books as history. Earlier this year, we took two friends and their kid to Vegas. After crossing the line into Nevada, we stopped at a gas station to use the restroom. The kid kind of disappeared and the next thing we knew it that he was sitting at a slot machine and touching all the buttons. The store attendant told us she had the cameras on and it was better for us to leave if we didn’t want a $10,000 fine. We flew from that place.

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