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The Don Quijote Building: A Surreal Maze of Weird Japanese Stuff
One of the major attractions of the Akihabara neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan is the Don Quijote building, home to several floors of discount shops, arcades, a cosplay cafe called @home, and the theater where the Japanese girl idol group AKB48 plays.
Don Quijote is, without a doubt, one of the strangest buildings I have ever walked through. If you find yourself in Tokyo and would like to see some strange Japanese products, or just wander through something exceedingly surreal, this building is a must.
In addition to seeing a lot of really strange stuff, you'll be able to shop to your heart's content, given that the prices in the building's discount stores are pretty low, and you can buy pretty much anything- from televisions and stationery to costumes and potato chips.
A Visit to the Don Quijote Building
I visited the Don Quijote building for the first time a couple days ago and was very amused. I had read that it had a famous cosplay cafe (called @home) and that it had discount shops in the lower floors and then the performance arena in one of the upper floors. This is all true, but the stores and cafe were nothing like I expected them to be!
Let's start with the outside of the building, which is black and yellow. Lining the sidewalks in front of the main entrance were hoards of guys trading photos of AKB48 girls. They had whole photo albums worth of stuff! Impressive.
Inside, one funnels into a packed escalator that leads on to the first of several floors of "discount stores" which turned out to be cave-like constructions of nearly any sort of object one could hope to buy. Electronics, costumes, food, repair tools, underwear, cosmetics, and stationery were arranged into tight columns, emerging from the sparse floor like stalagmites and hanging from the barely-visible ceiling like stalagmites. I could not believe how much stuff had been packed onto these windowless, old floors.
Some floors contained arcades, catering to a glossy-eyed but highly experienced set of otaku. Everything was cast in either a blue or fluorescent glow and submerged in a sea of sound.
@home, the cosplay cafe, had a line snaking around an entire corner of the building. The waitresses inside are dolled up like mad, and taking a break there would certainly be entertaining (as you might surmise from the video to the right).
Because AKB48 was not performing the day I visited, I did not see the floor on which they perform, but I doubt that I would be able to get up there anyway. Devotion to idols in Japan seems to involve a lot of waiting in line, which is not exactly my thing.
If, however, you are interested in seeing the group perform during your visit to Japan, you can apply for tickets (for a group of six or less) through AKB48's official website. Seeing them would certainly be an interesting experience!
That said, you can simply enjoy the weird Japanese stuff inside Don Quijote, then go to one of Akihabara's many maid cafes (beit @home or something outside Don Quijote), and have a perfectly good time. I recommend it!