Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

030 : Daniel Snyder outside an unnamed anime and games shop
Born 1976 in the USA, Daniel Snyder currently works as a paleontologist. He came to Japan on a large white airplane . Why Japan? It seemed like a good idea at the time. He digs the following Tokyo bits: not being the weirdest thing in Shibuya, creativity in the face of overwhelming authoritarian cultural homogeneity, and walking through random neighborhoods just to see the sights. He, however, is a touch miffed by the ever-present knowledge that the downtown area is overdue for a massive earthquake, willful ignorance of environmental problems, and Confucian cultural norms that encourage misogyny, sexual repression and accompanying psychological disorders. For more info on Daniel Snyder you should send an email.

image: Tomomi F.

“Ichor will gush out of this carefully constructed image”

August, rapacious. Akihabara [1] wears the heat like a suit lined with pointed daggers. The people scowl, hurting too much to hurry across the avenues. The buildings have ruptured: stores spill forth their wares like overripe fruit. Customers flit in and out, thirsting for the wet air conditioning.

She’s sitting in front of a store, in the twilit zone between scarring heat and sluggish cold, at a fold-out table. She could be 18 or 29.  Her face is beautiful, fit for recycling after one use. And she’s wearing a costume. A maid, or a princess, or some role that involves white lace and a black frock. She does not sweat, she doesn’t even slouch in her seat.

Behind her is a banner with a very different picture. It’s the picture of a woman with great dishplate eyes and long blonde plastic hair in a complicated braid. That woman is not dainty, she is dressed plate armor of European design. That portrait is flanked by kanji more like Rorschach blots than any written language. There is no passing resemblance between the two women. But many interchangeable heroines can be seen in the store, and up and down the block.

Ten minutes pass.

In that time, one scrawny boy has visited the table. The two shook hands politely, limply, as Japanese do. They spoke. She smiled a plasticine smile. He went away. Her posture is as fixed as it has ever been.

A half hour more will pass before she has another visitor.

There will come a time—when the sponsor pulls out, or later tonight when she’s alone in her tiny apartment, or yet today as this abominable heat rakes its claws against the anarchic cool—that the facade will crack, then splinter. Ichor will gush out of this carefully constructed image. And the drying human remains left behind, what will become of them? Will they try and pull back inside their shell? Will they beg for the attention this lifestyle didn’t grant them? Will they lie fetal, scared beyond any recovery, and mew out in blind horror at their fate?

referenced works

  1. Akihabara, or just "Akiba" for short, is ground zero for electronic goods, comics and anime merchandise, and maid cafes. The other otaku destination in the city is Nakano Broadway, a faintly mouldering shopping complex from the sixties. For an interesting comparative look at Akiba maniacs versus other Tokyo subcultures, see W. David Marx's article on Akiba-kei vs. Shibuya-kei here.

location information

  • Name: an unnamed anime and games shop
  • Time of story: afternoon
  • Latitude: 35.699318
  • Longitude: 139.771449
  • Map: Google Maps


019She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’ — Qi Rari

018In my dreamy state, oblivious to signs and announcements I often boarded the wrong train.— Momus (aka Nick Currie)

017I was fifteen years old and it was one of those nights.— Yuko Enomoto

016That ear of corn just wanted to go home— Guttersnipe Das

015With his painstakingly coiffured mane blowing in the wind— Digits Wolfowitz

014Her voice, even across languages, betraying her worry.— Olly Denton

013I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box.— Daphné Haour

012A simulacrum of someone else's home, equal parts comfort and loss.— Adam Greenfield

011Jumbled Escheresque insanity where geo­graphy in any traditional sense ceases to exist.— Joseph Badtke-Berkow

010I could hardly make out anything apart from his glowing eyes...— Uleshka

009Shibuya was like a stroke.— Alice.d

008I cried for a while and wiped the dead bracken off my karate pants.— David Cady

007Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.— Chris Tobber

006I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …— Claire Tanaka

005The Bad Girl strutted off and I was left with a ham egg pie.— Guttersnipe Das

004I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.— Ashley Rawlings

003The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.— Andrew Douglas

002Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.— Jean Snow

001For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.— Joseph Squier


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