Yesterday was primarily spent exploring the Akihabara neighbirhood of Tokyo. This place is the center of electronic supplies and video game culture in the city. There are many small through block arcades selling everything from CPUs to terabyte external hard drives as well as tools and chips. You can shop around market style for about seven square blocks and walk away with a computer.
The arcades, alleys, underside of train viaducts, and extremely narrow “pencil” buildings contain shops, arcades, and restaurants in every floor and basement. These myriad pencil buildings, ubiquitous through the major cities in the country, are apparently the result
of a hefty property tax placed upon those inheriting land. It makes more sense financially to most to split their land into a number of parcels for development, warranting the extra thin profile. I saw a hair salon and spa yesterday that was recently completed and maybe ten feet wide!
I finished the day by revisiting golden gai in kabukicho to see what the upstairs bars were like in these tiny two story buildings to be surprised by greatly efficient spaces like a submarine. I measured a plan for one with the gracious owner who was very curious about my “rare” interest in Roji (alley) spaces.
After a stroll around ginza, I explored a less classy side of Tokyo, that of kabukicho in shinjuku. This area has been tokyos redlight district since world war 2, and after meeting a Haitian businessman in the district, it became very clear how it thrives. The area is open 24 7 and takes in cash from every type if visitor to the city seeking seedier fun. This area was full of alleys bathed in neon containing all kinds of bars and clubs imaginable at every floor level imaginable up to 8 floors and down 2.
I then headed to my final destination,golden gai, the some 200 closet sized bars of every obscure theme imaginable where I made the acquaintances of a hair product magnate and a travel agent and was given a history in one of tokyos most hidden and notorious alley networks. The area continues to.operate under a majority if Japanese business owners, but due to its shed like construction and property values may not survive the next decade.