While it is certainly no 秋葉原電気街 (Tokyo’s Akihabara Electric Town), 日本橋 (Nipponbashi) has so far satiated my inner オタク (otaku). Nipponbashi’s Den-Den Town, which began as a hub for electronics of all sorts, has since evolved into a fluorescent sanctuary for pre-pubescent nerds and post-pubescent…nerds. For me, the appeal was to seek out memorabilia from older, less known animated movies and TV shows that I love, and – much to my surprise! – there was much to be found in the back-alley stories. From my 携帯電話 (keitai denwa) now dangles a vintage Pikachu charm, and all things Trigun have been oogled upon, even if they were beyond my price range.
My research project for CET Osaka is on otaku subculture, and I have to admit that before going to Nipponbashi (having already been to Akihabara) I didn’t think I would encounter anything too surprising. However, what I was shocked at were the manga stores, which still serve as the backbone of these pop-cultural oases. For example, Melonbooks, one of the most famous, is little more than a two-story stockroom with innumerable stacks of manga porn in every genre: everyone who worked at the store was female, and everyone shopping was male. My search for old volumes of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa proved impossible amongst a sea of newly-printed paperbacks adorned with sketches of green-haired damsels distressed by the tightness of their own clothes, and the clientele seemed unabashed by the prospect of sampling everything inside before finally making a purchase. The manga store seemed to serve as meeting place for otaku, hikikomori (at least from the clothes…), and various subcultures with sexual interests. This is essentially what my project for language class will be asking – why animation? What is the connection with male sexuality, obsessive consumerism, “popular culture v. art house” divisions in this realm, and the viable means of escaping from reality.
Inevitably, I could drone on and on about all these thoughts I’m amassing through the project, but for now I’ll leave simply the note that Nipponbashi is proving to be provactive in a wide number of ways.
For those of you with little interest in all things animated, I’ve included some consolatory pictures of my trip to Nara. : ) The story is rather as it has already been told – the 大仏 (Daibutsu, Great Buddha) is huge, the atmosphere serene, and the deer majestic… and ever so hungry.