Akatsuka: A Taste of 1950s Akihabara
Walk through Akihabara, goes the standard tourist pitch, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the LED signs, posters, maids and other symbols of otakudom on earth.
There may be some truth to that – it certainly takes a few passes through the flashy electronics stores and manga shops to realize there are quieter, older establishments right there in between them.
One fine example is Akatsuka, (1-10-2 Sotokanda). Sandwiched between a SIM card shop, adult bookstore and retro game arcade and with its main entrance down a small side street, Akatsuka is easy to miss.
Enter, though, and you’ll be treated to a traditional Japanese pub, or izakaya, that looks like it hasn’t changed a lot since it was established in 1954.
While Akatsuka’s specialty appears to be motsuni, or stewed giblets, they have a variety of typical izakaya offerings that, depending on how used to Japanese food you are, may seem either appetizing or turn your stomach. I personally dug everything but the dried shrimp, which were pretty crunchy and required a decent amount of beer to wash down.
Food aside, it was really the location and atmosphere that attracted us to Akatsuka. When it was established in the 50s, Akihabara was not yet known as an otaku paradise, but it did already have a reputation as a place to get radio parts and other electronics.
A 1949 crackdown on black markets did little to dampen the freewheeling vendor spirits of the place, and one can imagine how vital, exciting and a little dangerous Akiba was in 1954, when Akatsuka first opened its doors.
The izakaya offers seating options for people in large groups, pairs or even by themselves with a large semi-private room, tables and a large counter where folks can come after work for some drinking (nomu) and communication – or nomuinication for short.
The Beacon team did some nomunication ourselves, striking up a chat with the group at the table next to us who, as we could pretty much tell from their dress, were not your typical Akiba denizens. Instead, they were salarymen who decided to go for a drink at Akatsuka, having heard how legendary it was.
A new Beacon fan is born.
Aside from the large HDTV mounted on the wall, it feels as if Akatsuka has made little concession to the changing of the times, remaining as a small example of what Akiba once was. Speaking of lack of concessions, there seemed to be no English menu available – but don’t let that stop you from checking it out.
Remember, it’s all about nomunication.