If the crime scenes that appear in Japan’s print and broadcast media seem to have a remarkable verisimilitude about them, it’s probably thanks to manufacturers’ standardization of the color and texture of the blue vinyl sheeting, which is used ubiquitously by the police to mask such scenes from the public's view.
But thanks to the diffusion of another product -- cell phone cameras -- Japanese TV viewers were given rare, unobstructed views of the prostrate bleeding victims of the slaughter on Chuo Dori avenue in Akihabara last Sunday.
Some of these amateur news gatherers could be overheard talking excitedly on their cell phones, saying, “A horrible incident’s happening right now! I’ll send you a mail.”
Shukan Bunshun’s (June 19) comment on the televising of graphic scenes of the carnage, almost in real time, is “iya na kanji” (an unpleasant sensation).
“You could see hordes of young people lined up shooting from the pedestrian bridge that gave a view to the crime scene,” relates a news reporter who had rushed to the scene. “And when I approached the street intersection, I could actually hear the (digital) shutter noises made by the cell phone cameras. I can understand that people would want to record such an incident, but I felt the lack of consideration to the victims was poor behavior on their part. It was unpleasant to the extreme.”
Akihabara, famed as the “Mecca of Geekdom,” is of course a place where visitors are invited, even encouraged, to shoot pictures of young waitresses dolled up to resemble French maids, or cute “kigurumin” females at streetside promotional events who prance in costumes resembling cartoon characters.
“The place has changed,” a local shop owner sighs. “The cosplay girls began appearing about four or five years ago. In the old days, whenever we had a ‘pedestrian paradise,’ we’d set up tables and parasols out in the street, and the place had a laid-back atmosphere. But now the area's been taken over by young people.
“What makes us so different from Shinjuku and Shibuya is the scarcity of females. Nine out of 10 people who come here are males,” the owner adds.
The area’s “maid cafes” aren’t especially new. “There were about five of them in 2002, when we opened,” a cafe operator tells Shukan Bunshun. “But now not only cafes, but other types of businesses like massage parlors, pubs, bars and so have also adopted the maid theme -- maybe over 60 of them.”
“When the maid shops first appeared, customers were satisfied just to ogle at them,” the operator continues. “But now it's not enough just to see and talk to them -- some customers behave like stalkers. Some girls, while on their way to the station, have been waylaid by men who lurk on the street waiting for them. So they won’t leave the shop by themselves, but go together in a group.
“Some of the customers go in for touching the girls or other infractions of the rules. That's not the sort of thing that ‘otaku’ (geeks) do. But these days, not even half our customers are ‘otaku’ types,” the man adds.
Akihabara’s “otaku” culture -- driven by fanatical hobbyists of video games, anime, manga, and virtual female “moe” companions -- seems to have also attracted people who come to the area to prey on “otaku,” such as through extortion. This has led to further deterioration of the “Electric Town’s” erstwhile clean and safe image. “Akiba,” Shukan Bunshun concludes, is no longer the Mecca of Geekdom, but has begun to metamorphose into something else entirely.© Japan Today