It’s a bit late, but I thought I’d talk a bit about my trip to Taiwan earlier this year, including my brief stop in Japan. I’ll mainly be talking about the geeky/otaku stuff, since there’s not much I can say about the scenic places that a picture couldn’t say. I’ll do a post about my trip to California later, probably (yo, Disneyland is amazing).
So when I made my post from Taiwan I had just visited the premier PC and electronics market in Taipei. I mainly went into two buildings – the Syntrend mall and the Guanghua Digital Plaza. Syntrend is sort of a upscale electronics shopping mall, with official stores from Intel, HTC, Razer, Acer and more. The Intel store had a bunch of racing simulator setups and an Oculus Rift DK2 setup, as well as a bunch of PCs that the staff were just gaming on.
It’s actually a very nice looking place, and it isn’t just limited to electronics. The floors are dedicated to different themes like Play, Look and Listen. One floor had a really nice cafe with high-end coffee (we’re talking imported beans with descriptions of their flavour and acidity), a bookstore and a bunch of camera shops. Another floor had a Star Wars exhibition. Then the floor that I particularly enjoyed was the one with the toys and figure stores. That’s where I got my Ougi Oshino figure from the Asia Goal store. Nearby was amazing looking gunpla store and a western figure store with Marvel theming.
Moving to the Digital Plaza market, connected by a walkway to the Syntrend building, and you get something more like Technocity in Capitol Square on a much larger scale. This place also had a bunch of floors, but rather than the open spaces of the Syntrend building you had corridors lined with shops dedicated to all sorts of PC and mobile hardware and electronics. Stores with shelves overflowing with Intel CPUs, graphics cards, keyboards and mice. You had a few selling phone accessories and a few selling video games. But unfortunately the prices for PC parts in the plaza aren’t actually that much cheaper than buying them here, despite Taiwan being home to most of these manufacturers. I did get my Nexus 6P here though, which was cheaper than buying in Australia.
So after a trip to Sun Moon Lake a fair bit south of Taipei, which I have lovingly named Silent Hill Lake (see above), I visited Taipei City Mall. An underground mall beneath the main metro station in Taipei, about 25% of it is dedicated to anime and gaming. Advertisements for JRPGs were littered throughout the area and cabinets full of figures were situated along the corridors of the mall. Unfortunately I did not find anything that caught my eye, because most of what was on display were prize figurines. It appears that high quality scale figurines are usually pre-ordered so newly released figurines don’t tend to stay on display for very long. But it was a great place to look around, with a gun otaku airsoft store and a retro used game store with a bunch of nostalgia inducing games on display.
So my next stop was the Animate store in Taipei, one of their few branches outside Japan. Lo and behold they were holding a small Kalafina exhibit inside, which was mainly the singers’ clothes, but I still quite enjoyed it. The contents of Animate actually surprised me a little, because while they have a sizable selection of manga and light novels, and a smaller collection of anime, they don’t have many figurines. Rather a lot of character goods (like keyrings, towels, etc.) occupy the shelves, including a sizable area for the top dog in anime merchandise, Love Live. They also have a fair selection of doujinshi, which also surprised me, though I’m not sure if it’s Japanese or translated into Chinese.
The Ximen district where Animate is located is a popular shopping district with lots of clothing stores and the such, but there are also a few other otaku stores around. I went into one of those and managed to pick up a figure I didn’t manage to get at Asia Goal, which was the Yukino Yukinoshita figurine. Overall between those shops and Animate, you can get a bunch of stuff that closely matches the stuff you could get in Japan.
My trip in Taiwan closed off with a trip to the Taroko Gorge, which is an amazing place where the mountains tower over you and the roads are situated on cliffsides over lethal drops into cold rivers. An amazing place that frankly you wouldn’t be able to go to if crazy and brave people hadn’t blasted through the mountains and built a road through it (and unsurprisingly, the death toll to build those roads was not small).
So my brief stopover in Japan was too brief for my liking, and my exploration of Akihabara was quite limited. Leaving the station I was immediately faced with the long queue of people wanting to get into the AKB48 Theatre and Cafe, which was probably holding one of their regular shows. I didn’t even try to go into the Gundam Cafe next door, not wanting to waste too much time waiting for a seat. Instead I set off for the main street, and looked through the small shops on the road first. It wasn’t long before I bought a figure from one of those stores, a Hitagi Senjougahara (Hajime Ueda ver) figure. It was then I realised that I would definitely not have time to look through all the stores I wanted to.
I went into the Akiba Sofmap store, the one full of anime and games. And it was kinda disappointing, in a way. Partly because I was politely told not to take any photos in the store, which meant I didn’t take many photos at all in Japan, but mainly because the store seemed pretty standard. The figure floor was stocked full of stuff but nothing really caught my eye and I thought about buying some Japanese light novels as a keepsake but remembered I could just get it at Kinokuniya in Sydney. The anime floor did have a nice surprise with a small but prominent RWBY display, which is a pretty big deal for a Western-produced ‘anime’ from the company that many years ago just did funny videos in Halo. And I did go to all the floors in Sofmap, including the adult floors. I chuckled when the eroge floor was full of people, and the adult DVD floor was basically empty except for two other foreigners who were also there out of curiosity.
Moving on, I went to Mandarake because I wanted to see if there were any good second-hand goods to get. I was very surprised by the structure of Mandarake, which is basically each floor is essentially its own shop, and you mainly move between floors using an exterior staircase (there was also a lift). The selection at Mandarake is amazing, which given their business shouldn’t be surprising, but the range of goods is still amazing. Thinking about my luggage space, the only thing I bought was a Misaka Mikoto World Uniform Operation figure, but I was tempted by many other things. The manga/light novel floor is especially wonderful because they have so many old series mixed in with new ones, which really made me wish I studied Japanese.
The last place I went into was Club Sega, and all the prize machines on the first two floors either had Monogatari or Love Live prizes. So I decided to spend a few of my coins trying to win a Shinobu prize figure. And I quickly learned why claw games in Japan are so hard. Unlike claw games here, what you do in Club Sega at least is you are trying to knock your prize (typically in a box of some kind), off two parallel and horizontal bars that sit over the prize receptacle. I forgot to take a picture, but imagine trying to knock a box off a shelf with a crane with the strength of a newborn baby. After eight attempts I gave up, despite my lust for the Monogatari goods. They had a really cool wallscroll as well, but it was really long and trying to knock it off those bars would’ve taken hundreds of Australian dollars.
Afterwards it was getting a little late and I eventually departed for my plane at Haneda Airport, a little disappointed I didn’t have more time to explore Akiba. I definitely need to make another trip to Japan in the future.