Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kowloon Walled City and Gunkanjima Island

Kowloon Walled City Writing about two fascinating places today.  One isn't Japanese, but is in the Hong Kong of the past.  What is their connection? Both were abandoned ruins at one point, and the now demolished Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong (along with the busy Kowloon streets) were inspiration for the futuristic streets of Tokyo in the Ghost in the Shell anime movie by Mamoru Oshii.

Kowloon Walled City Model   Flickr / dcmaster

Flickr / by AntwerpenR
Kowloon Walled City was tightly packed development of apartment buildings that were connected by narrow streets, alleys, and a myriad of passages.  The place was even a bit off limits to the police.  Very neat to look at in photos and such, and probably pretty unnerving to enter if you were not a resident. It looks like a place that was very easy to get lost in with no GPS signals possible even if there were pocket GPS systems back then.  A book called City of Darkness was published about the city.

After a little research I found one web site that I had visited over ten years ago, but is now defunct.  Fortunately, the Internet Archive has a copy of it.  This website chronicles the visit of a Japanese expedition (go figure!?!) that visited the Walled City prior to its demolition.  The story was pretty fascinating and can be found here:

Another site I found was the site with the amazing cross-section image from the book published by the Japanese expedition.  And large image of the cross-section and other information can be found at this website:

April 2103 Update:
New link to Gizmodo who has recently published an excerpt from the South China Morning Post to recap the 20th anniversary demolition of the City of Darkness.  It also shows that thousands of people lived there and made great friends and connections when they were poor.  The SCMP article will probably disappear behind a paywall, but it has an awesome cross-section / infographic of the city.

Gunkanjima or Battleship Island
Flickr / by Sergio Rozas
Hashima Island or Gunkanjima Island was the location of a small town built on a speck of land to support a coal mine that finally played out economically in the 1970's.  The place is now deserted and looks hastily abandoned as the company moved everyone off the island.  There were schools, hospitals, many apartment blocks for the miners and their families, and all types of services on the island. Just the other day I realized what fascinated me about the abandoned place - it looks like the abandoned Chernobyl city pictures without the radiation from that horrible reactor meltdown.  Flickr has many images of the island taken by foreign and Japanese photographers.  There are books on that are only about the island.

Recently, the James Bond movie "Skyfall" seemed to feature a deserted island that looked very much like Gunkanjima, but it was actually an island off of Macau with sets inspired by the real thing.  The real island itself is quite small and the buildings are really packed in.

Here is a link to a blog page where a guy took a tour of the island.  Kind of interesting reading.On it is the name of tour company called Seaman Shokai (株式会社シーマン商会; TEL: 095-818-1105)
 in Nagasaki that took him there.  Another link to Gakuranman's blog some very nice photos of the desolation.

Also of note is this excellent historical article about the island from Cabinet Magazine.

I wonder if there were many novels and such set in either setting.  It would have probably made for some fascinating reading.  Also have a look on Youtube for some movies about both of the places.

April 2013 Update:
Rocketnews went out to the island with a Sony Corp. camera crew and took some really nice photos and even some new remote drone footage of the place.  Cool.

Other Tokyo Excess Japanese Pop Culture Links

Cup Noodles - Nissin Pop Culture

Instant Cup noodles are a fairly popular food item that pervades most societies on this planet.  They aren't the most healthy thing for you, but they can be a pretty tasty snack or quick meal.  How many quick, hot food items are literally add hot water, wait for 3 minutes, and have a meal.  I actually prefer the Nissin brand cup noodles myself as I think their noodles have a better texture than many of the other brands.  BTW, keep reading the article as some pretty cool Gundam and Star Wars Nissin commercials are at the end!
Flickr / kenleewrites
Nissin itself is a pretty big company that made net sales of over $4 billion in 2011 and they've must have sold billions of cups of noodles over the years.  You can see their annual report here and it has some nice big glossy pages of cup noodles at the beginning.  Well, Nissin has been around so long and they have been marketing for a long time so they have a pop culture element to their product which is featured in the many anime and even has a special spot in the Nissin sponsored Anime Freedom (which actually wasn't bad).

Well the history of cup noodle goes back a long way into the 1950's and there was even a manga made about its origins that was even translated into English at one point.  Project X - Nissin Cup Noodle by Tadashi Katoh and Akira Imai.  The description of the manga from Amazon pretty much gives you a capsule recap: "In a time when the Japanese food industry was struggling economically, a man named Momofuku Andou sought to turn the tide. Seeking a new type of food for a new era, he ordered the development of a "cup noodle" - a revolutionary idea for a convenient instant noodle. Overcoming public skepticism as well as doubts even from those within their own company, Andou and his staff of young developers constantly challenged convention to create this new product..." The description is a little more dramatic than I would have made it, but it was interesting reading for a history book.

Cup Noodle Commercials
The latest campaign they are running is "Boil Japan" which is kind of scary sounding, but the commercials are cool.  The first two commercials use Gundam and Star Wars themes to really good effect.  The Gundam one has a giant Gundam walking with a big kettle of boiling water for the old cup of noodle, but the second has Yoda using the force to do the same.   You can find the commercials on Youtube if you really want to have a look.  Going back further, they have space ramen and even Robocop.  If you buy cup noodle at the konbini, they will give you a pair of chopsticks too!

Gundam Boil Japan Commercial

Yoda Boil Japan Commercial

Three Minute Noodle Timer Robot

To give their ad campaigns a little extra zip, they have even branded the cup noodles as a noodle timer robot  and added model kits to the ramen.  The timer robot is pretty cool (I wish I had one).  The latest kits even had the Gundam / Zaku robots with Nissin logos on them.   See my Noodle Gunpla Post here.
A few of the older commercials are shown below with the Space Ramen, Robocop, and a cute one with some cave people and a Brontotherium.

Cave Men Ramen

Pteryodactyl Ramen

Noodles in Spaaaace!

Original Chicken Ramen Ad

Ramen Salarymen

Nissin's Super Deluxe Raoh Instant Ramen.  It is good stuff!


Finally, if you aren't cup of noodled out or have left to boil some water to make some, Nissin opened up another Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama in 2011, so you don't have to go all the way to Osaka to see it if you were just visiting Tokyo.  That means Yokohama now has the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum and the the Cup Noodle Museum as ramen destinations a half hour from Tokyo by train.

Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama Address
Cup Noodles Museum 2-3-4 Shinkou, Naka-ku, Yokohama カップヌードルミュージアム 横浜市中区新港2-3-4 +81 (0) 45 345 0918

Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum Address
Japan, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, Kohoku Ward, Shinyokohama, 2丁目14−21
+81 45-471-0503

Tokyo Excess Japanese Pop Culture Page

Friday, February 24, 2012

Junji Okubo - Photo-realistic Mecha Designer

Junji Okubo Mech  Flickr / Ѕolo
Junji Okubo rocks!  He is a great mecha designer and I like his work as he blends the CG robots in with real world landscapes.  His focus on industrial or working robots is something that you don't usually see much of.  If you like robots, you need to visit his website at to see more (you will need to click on the little mech at the bottom of his page to see his drawings!).  His designs are modern and practical looking and range from industrial / worker robots to military mechs.  He also has a wonderful book titled Industrial Divinities about many of this robot designs that I bought on Amazon Japan.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Akira Yamaguchi Surrealist Artist

A Different Yamaguchi

Akira Yamaguchi doesn't seem to have much of a web presence in English or Japanese.  I only found out about this wonderful artist when I was visiting the Mori Museum gift shop and found a copy of his book which I immediately bought.  He is considered to be a Neo Nihonga (New Japanese style) artist who intends to keep traditional art techniques going with a modern twist. Another notable artist in this category is Takashi Murakami. Yamaguchi's work combines traditional Japanese imagery / techniques with modern settings to create surreal pictures.  You could have Samurai deploying a robot or peasants and modern business men on the same street or strangely merged modern and medieval structures.

His work can come in some pretty large sizes as you can tell from these murals at the airport.
Airport   Flickr /
Airport Closeup   Flickr /

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bandai HQ Lifesize Statues in Tokyo

Ultraman in Front of Bandai HQ  Flickr / simon.y
Bandai has their headquarters in Tokyo in Taitō-ku, Komagata.  Their building was completed in 2002 with 14 floors and by itself, not that interesting.  However, outside the building are a number of life size or larger than life size anime statues you might want to peruse.    They have Ultraman, Cinnamoroll, Doraemon, SD Deformed Gundam, Kamen Rider and more on display.  There are arcade consoles inside the building.

View Larger Map
The building is about half a kilometre south of of Asakusa Kaminarimon(雷門) or "Thunder Gate".
Even if you don't visit, you can check it out on Google Streetview and look at all the statues by viewing the larger map above and zooming in until you get into Streetview mode.

Bandai New Headquarters
1-4-8 Komagata, Taito-ku
Tokyo Japan

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Wave and The Bungle Bungle

I covered a few cool locations for anime or a real life visit last time, so here are a few more exotic locations for anime.  I might try to get to both of these in person one day! Do have relatives to visit in Australia and Arizona is on the same continent...

The Wave, Arizona, USA
The state only issues a few passes a day to visit this delicate site out in the desert.  It looks spectacular with all of the curves and lines.  Apparently it is a "fossilized" sand dune that you kind of almost stumble upon. One person described it as you are walking through the desert then all of a sudden you are in this amazing terrain.
The Wave From DIVA007
by AyaLaw

Bungle Bungle, Australia

The Bungle Bungle Ranges in Kimberly, Western Australia. They look like great big striped beehives.

Bungle Bungle by neeravbhatt
Bungle Bungle by neeravbhatt

by mgjefferies

Shangri-La and the Getu Valley

Anime often takes place in fictitious worlds or is loosely based on real world locations. Today, I'm going to show you two exotic locations in China / Tibet that have appeared in anime or would be an awesome location for one. You might even want to travel there yourself and have your own adventure!

Prayer Flags by timquijano
What does the name Shangri-La conjure up in your imagination for yourself?  To me, it meant a peaceful paradise where you could live a very long life.  I think this particular vision was influenced by reading the book "Lost Horizon" when I was young.  The ebook for it can be obtained in the public domain from Gutenberg Australia.

From Wikipedia "The concept of Shangri-La, as first described in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, is claimed to have been inspired by the Shambhala myth (as well as then-current National Geographic articles on Eastern Tibet). Shambala appears in several science fiction stories of the 1930s."

So here comes the anime connection from Fullmetal Alchemist Conquerors of Shambala.  Where Shambala is basically a version of Shangri-La, but not quite so peaceful.  There is also the manga / anime Shangri-La, but it is more a play or symbolic on the name.

In real world, the actual location of Shangri-La has been claimed by several places, but the one I'm going to focus on is the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet. The canyon is was carved out by the Yarlung Tsangpo River (The Everest of Rivers) which flows from the lower left side of the image to the right then angles northeast toward the upper right. It then makes a hairpin turn and continues to flow in a generally southward direction near the right-hand side of the image where it is all green. Further downstream, the river widens and becomes the Brahmaputra. Its waters eventually empty to the Bay of Bengal. As you can tell from the satellite image the river traverses very rugged mountainous terrain.
NASA EOSDIS Image of Yarlang Tsangpo River
The canyons carved by the river and the lower elevations it traverse have been identifed as an untouched environment with a diverse ecosystem that hosts endangered species like the snow leopard and other rare creatures.  After being closed to the west for a long time, the Chinese authorities granted access to the mysterious canyon to American explorer Richard D. Fisher in the 1990s to lead an expedition into the canyon and was able to determine that theYarlung Tsangpo Canyon was really deep.  The canyon's average depth is about 7,440 feet (2,268 m) with the deepest depth reaching 19,714 feet (6,009 m). This is one of the deepest canyons on Earth.  The myth of Shangri-la, as described in James Hilton's 1933 novel "Lost Horizons", is believed by a number of explorers to have been geographically inspired by the deepest gorges and waterfalls of the Tsangpo. A 30-meter (100-foot) waterfall had been reported by Kintup, an illiterate tailor from Sikkim who explored the Tsangpo for several years in the 1880's. However, the expedition led by Frank Kingdon-Ward in the 1920's discovered only a 21-meter (70-foot) waterfall (Rainbow Falls). The legendary 30-meter falls was not re-discovered until 1998.

Getu Valley
The Getu Valley is another fantastic sight to behold in China.  In this valley there is an absolutely stunning rock formation where it looks like a massive hole has been carved through a mountain.  It is huge and rock climbers are flocking their to try their skills out. The people are tiny in the images.  Petzl has filmed an expedition movie showing some of the stunning beauty of this place.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Whiteout and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Driving (Hyperpace Jump) in Blizzard   Flickr  / Mentatmark
Well, I made it home through a little freak blizzard tonight.  Driving back up to Edmonton with nice clear conditions until Innisfail and then WHAM - Highway 2 was closed off with 5 to 10 cm of snow on the ground and heavy snow falling.  For those of you who live in northern climates this isn't anything too unusual, but still it is bad driving.  Had to detour to a secondary highway (the 2a) and drive through about 30 km of miserable winter driving where you could barely see the road.  Some guy with B.C. plates was up ahead of us driving really slow - too slow - so that snow wasn't blowing off the windshield and melted on it instead - that's bad as you either pump more heat on or it eventually ices up.  You need to go 40+ kph to keep the white stuff off, and don't crank the heat up on the windshield as it makes it worse.  There was a huge line of traffic on this detour behind us.  After passing out of the storm, the roads were pretty much clear all the way up for the rest of the trip.  Not the worst driving conditions I've been in, but bad anyhow.

While I'm on the topic of snow, there's this one famous pass in the mountains of western Honsu, Japan, that gets LOTS of snow.  This is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート). The route is just 37 km in length, but with a vertical elevation up to 1,975 metres.  It is a famous mountain sightseeing route between Tateyama, Toyama and Ōmachi and Nagano that fully opened in 1971. It is famous for hiking and the 20 metre high snow corridor is a highlight during spring.  There are pictures of this snow corridor below and it is amazing.  It is like being in a canyon of snow.
Tateyama Snow Road  Flickr / tsuda

Tateyama Snow Road  Flickr / tsuda

More pictures here at Flickr:

You can find more information about this mountain area and the snow road here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

JAL Inflight Food (they even did Air MOS Burgers)

Flickr / Drewski2112
Unless you're going by boat, you have to fly by plane to get to and from Japan (no rockets, airships, or flying mechas unfortunately).  JAL has been rated pretty highly for service and food by a number of magazines and websites.  I've never flown them myself (kind of stuck with Air Canada as I don't live near major hubs like Vancouver or Toronto), but their very well presented meals sure have me wanting to try them out.

JAL has been doing some cross-promotional deals with some Japanese food chains for their in-flight meals for some time now.  The first item that caught my eye was from Monocle magazine where they ran a little blurb about JAL serving up an Air Mos Burger for a limited time in 2011.  What you say!?!  Burgers in Space - or at least in the air!  Since then, they have introduced other types of appealing and nicely presented food for their passengers.

Right now as part of their JAL Premium Economy International flights they are partnered up with Soup Stock Tokyo to bring you some more fabulous looking meals for a limited time. Soup Stock Tokyo Website.
There is a French meal and a traditional Japanese meal.  The Japanese meal uses fresh seasonal ingredients, while the French meal serves up a hot Croque monsieur [ham, cheese] sandwich.  Both are packaged up in the very nice serving trays / kits that won a design award.

There is also a yummy looking Chinese pork bun "meat bun air?" meal running right now that was jointly developed a famous and popular Yokohama Chinatown restaurant. I love the translation from Google that comes through as: Please look forward to! "Hot! Plump" of meat bun with plenty of feeling of the season prior to arrival destination.

Last year, from June through August 2011, they ran the “Air Mos Burger” in-flight meal set. Mos Burger is Japan’s homegrown answer to McDonald's (Mos Burger Website  This burger meal had you assemble your own in-flight burger with lettuce, buns, hamburger patty, teriyaki sauce and mayonnaise from a hot kit. My favourite thing about this "air burger" is the fact that it come with a double-sided instruction sheet that tells you how to assemble your teriyaki burger in detail.  See a closeup of the meal and the instructions at Flickr here.

Other Tokyo Excess Japanese Pop Culture Links

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kanda Myojin Shrine in Chiyoda (Akihabara) Tokyo

Kanda Front Gate  Flickr / heiwa4126
I've summarized this information from Wikipedia.  The shrine is on a small hill and was originally established in 730 AD (dating back almost 1300 years), but the current structure was rebuilt several times due to fire and earthquakes.  Kanda Shrine was an important shrine to both the warrior class and citizens of Japan, especially during the Edo period, when shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu paid his respects at Kanda Shrine.

Kanda Shrine and Grounds (shops are in building on the left)  Flickr / heiwa4126

Three major kami enshrined are Daikokuten, Ebisu, and Taira no Masakado. As Daikokuten and Ebisu both belong to the Seven Gods of Fortune, Kanda Shrine is a popular place for businessmen and entrepreneurs to pray for wealth and prosperity. Taira no Masakado however, was a samurai who rebelled against the Heian government, and was later elevated to the status of kami out of reverence. It is also said that shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu felt uncomfortable to have his castle built close to such a powerful spirit, and so decided to move Kanda Shrine to its modern location.
Matsuri  Flickr / By d'n'c

Kanda festival (Kanda matsuri) is one of the three major Shinto festivals in Tokyo, started in 1600 by Tokugawa Ieyasu to celebrate his decisive victory at the battle of Sekigahara. The festival is held on the Saturday and Sunday closest to May 15, but since it alternates with the Sannō Matsuri, it is only held on odd numbered years.

Most interestingly, this worship at this shrine now covers information technology (fitting considering the proximity to Electric Town Akiba).  You can buy charms here to protect your IT systems and data.  You had better still back up, but having some extra luck can't hurt.  The House icon near the left side of the map below shows where the shrine is.

View Akihabara Highlights Map / Akihabara Guide in a larger map

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Emoticons and Densha Otoko

Not too long ago I started thinking about emoticons (kaomoji or emoji) for some reason and did a bit of reading on it.  I never really was a cell phone guy until I got my smart phone last year and I guess I still don't emote :( as much as I could.  However, when I was reading up on the history of emoticons, it struck me that one of the first places I saw a lot of emoticons was the whole 2chan BBS message chain around Densha Otoko or Train Man from 2004.

Pretty much anyone into anime has probably heard about Train Man.  It is a story about an otaku who saves an attractive woman on the train from a drunk salary man and then gets help from the posters on 2chan about how to court her as he is very socially awkward.  Eventually they end up in a serious relationship and live happily ever after - a modern day fairy tale involving pre-Web 2.0 social media.  I loved the story, read the manga, and saw the movie, but never saw the TV series.

Anyhow, the Train Man postings were translated into English here: with plenty of emoticons.  So if you have a bunch of time and don't read Japanese, read the "close" to original, and also interpret all of the wonderful emoticons.


I also wonder about how emoticons evolved between the East (aka Japan) and the West. The first computer text ones were even done by a techie back in 1982 by Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University when cellphones were were not quite out the door yet and were the size of a brick.

Western emoticons are read from left to right in a very logical sequential manner in an approach that is like building a word out of letters. You also ever wonder why you start with the eyes rather then the mouth first in the left to right order?  This is probably due to western socialization to look at the other person's eyes, when we talk. 

However, in the East, the emoticons are to be read as a whole image or pictogram, much like Kanji or Traditional Chinese Characters.  That is pretty cool.  I think the Japanese were innovative here around the facial expressions due to the pervasiveness of manga and its many standardized expressions of emotion and facial expression.  It also turns out from a Google search that there are many scientists working on this research problem too. Just Google terms like "perception comparative psychology emoticon emoji"

Below are some sample emoticons using the Unicode text set. Emoticons are so important that some of them have been standardized in the international character sets.

(^_^) or (^_^)v, etc Laughing
(>_<)> Troubled
(^_^;) Troubled
(ToT) Crying
m(_ _)m Apologising
(^^ゞ or (^^;) Shy
( ̄ー ̄) Grinning
(≧∇≦)/ Joyful
( ̄□ ̄;) Surprised
(#^.^#) Shy
(*´▽`*) Infatuation
(ーー;) Worried
(*^▽^*) Joyful
_| ̄|○ Depressed
(^▽^)  Laughing
(´・ω・`) Snubbed
( ゚ Д゚) Shocked
(・∀・) Laughing
(T▽T) Crying
(* ̄m ̄) Dissatisfied
( ´∀`) Laughing
(⌒▽⌒) Laughing
(^v^) Laughing
(*°∀°)=3 Infatuation

Other Tokyo Excess Japanese Pop Culture Links

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Tokyo

Years ago, I came across images of a ruined Tokyo by TokyoGenso and was really impressed.  In anime and Godzilla movies, Tokyo is always being destroyed. Heck, it was even wiped out in a zombie apocalypse in the Resident Evil movies and in High School of the Dead.  Have you ever wondered what it would look like after the apocalypse?  I don't think I would want to visit ruined Tokyo as who knows what is lurking in the shadows, but imagery from TokyoGenso (a.k.a. Tokyo Fantasy) depict what this back to nature future could be like.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gundam Front Tokyo at Diver City In Odaiba

The giant 1/1 scale Gundam being rebuilt in Odaiba is the front piece for Diver City.  Inside Diver City Tokyo Plaza, on the 7th floor of the building, a small Gundam Theme Park named Gundam Front Tokyo will open on April 19 of 2012 and was still up as of June 2013 so it looks like it will be around for a bit.

UPDATE: April 2017, the RX-78-2 was taken down in March of 2017.  A Unicorn Gundam is supposed to be raised in the fall of 2017 to replace it.  The exact timing is not known at this time.

So, not only will you get the see the big robot, you will get a big robot experience.  Diver City Tokyo is a commercial complex with a shopping mall, food court, event space, a roof top park, and gets its name from combining the words diversity + city.  There is even a Mai Dreaming Maid Cafe inside the mall and conveyor belt sushi on the top floor!
My RX78-2 Giant Gundam Shot.  It was awesome to see it in person.

Visit the travelogue of my visit to Tokyo in February 2013 with Giant Gundam and Gundam Front at this site! I hit most of the tourist highlights so you can get a good idea of the cool things to see in general.
Giant Gundam Outside of Diver City
Big Feet!
If you're interested in real robot anime mecha which Gundam blazed a trail for you can also hit my post on it here.  You can also see my Pacific Rim and Giant Mecha post here for more big robot info.

The official Gundam Front website:

Gundam Front is about 22000 square feet of space, with Gundam models, mockups, a dome theater, and photo posing opportunities inside.  Admission for adults is 1000 yen, but there will be plenty of free stuff to see and there will be tons of Gundam merchandise in the gift shops.  One of the things about Japan, they know how to do gift shops. Just like Disney I love their gift shops with the properly themed merchandise, even if don't consume nearly as much as they would like.  A second Gundam Cafe will also open here but the one in Akihabara would still be the main one for cafes.

Below is a map to Odaiba locations, including Diver City.

The main way to get there is from Shinbashi station in the Shiodome (see my article about the Shiodome here).  From here you take the Yurikamome monorail over the Rainbow Bridge and get off at Daiba station or Fune-no-kagakukan station.  At Daiba station you are near a whole whack of malls like the Decks or Pallet Town, etc.  You need to go behind some buildings such as the Fuji TV building to get to the Gundam which is a 5 minute walk away and not visible until you get around all the buildings.  Fune-no-kagakukan is further down the same monorail line and you can also walk there from this station.  You can also get there from another direction via the Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line.

Can't wait to go and see one day.  It is basically located right behind the Fuji TV building.  You could make a long day here on the island by taking the monorail over to see the Miraikan Technology Museum, the Maritime Museum, then make a medium-ish walk over to Diver City for Gundam action, Fuji TV for cool architecture, and Pallet Town if you need to hit another mall or a big arcade.  Don't forget to stop at a konbini to load up on drinks and snacks at the first possible opportunity as you are on an expedition!

Other Tokyo Anime / Otaku Highlights Worth Visiting

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Akiba Culture Zone Department Store

Flickr / by Masaru Kamikura
Akiba Culture Zone is a new six floor department store devoted to Otaku tastes and shopping. It just fully opened at the end of January 2012.  The basement has a food court named the One Fes Cafe, K-Books on the first and second floors, The third and fourth floor have more anime goods shops with figures, idol merchandise and more. The fifth floor is the Good Smile and Karaoke no Tetsujin Cafe, and the Akihabara Backstage Pass Cafe is on the 6th floor. Looks like it is full of Otaku goodness. I've added it to my Akihabara Map along with the location of the Gundam Cafe!  This will help to replace the loss of the Radio Kaikan Building.

The map below shows the location of the Gundam Cafe and the AKB48 Cafe which are adjacent to each other as the pair of faces in the center of the map.
The map below shows the location of the Gundam Cafe and the AKB48 Cafe which are adjacent to each other as the pair of faces in the center of the map.

View Akihabara Highlights Map / Akihabara Guide in a larger map

Here is a writeup about the place in JapanToday.

Bit of an update on May 20th, 2012 about Akiba Culture Zone.
Crunchyroll did a report on the Kaiyodo Wonder Festival Cafe in the basement of the building closing down as there wasn't enough business on the weekdays.  Hopefully the place and Akiba is still healthy with the economic times were are all going through.  Get the full report here.


The Gundam Cafe is a place I've always wanted to visit too.  While not new, it is definitely a must see for Gundam fans.  Here are pictures of the cafe from Akihabara News

Right next door to the Gundam Cafe is the AKB48 Cafe and Shop.  I'll bet big fans of both will spend hours and hours here either in the cafe or waiting to get in.

Patrick Macias also has a new writeup in the Guardian about the 10 best Otaku Places.