On January 23, Akihabara once again opened its pedestrian mall. Otaku ("geeks") hit the streets to stroll and shop. Yet, men in schoolgirl skirts were not welcomed. This is what Akihabara's come to, apparently.
While pedestrians are welcomed when the main drag is closed to traffic on Sunday, "performances" are now prohibited by the local Akihabara governing body - a body made up of elderly men. It's more than a generational clash.
In previous years, wanna-be idols sang songs for whomever was passing by (incidentally, these street musicians partly inspired Japan's most popular girl group AKB48) and cosplayers posed for pictures. Most of it was good clean fun. Then girls started flashing their panties. And all hell broke lose.
Mobs clamored around, and there were general concerns about safety. One singer was even arrested for indecent exposure, inciting a media circus. TV cameras roamed the streets as the flasher continued to defy the police. Then the unthinkable happened: on June 8, 2008, a man drove a rented truck into the area's pedestrian mall, got out and began randomly stabbing passer-byers.
Akihabara is on edge, too. That's why when the area reopened its pedestrian mall, it prohibited performances. When the pedestrian mall opened on January 23, those cosplaying were pulled aside by the cops and told to pack it up.
Cosplayers and singers say that they add flavour and colour to the area. When visitors come to Akihabara, the supporters say, they want to see and take photos of cosplayers. Akihabara without them is like Disneyland without Mickey or Minnie. Critics say that cosplayers draw large crowds that clog up the sidewalks, creating possible risks.
What's more, many cosplayers used to change once they arrived in Akihabara. I mean, who wants to be dressed as a Gundam RX-78 on the train ride over? Okay, bad example. But cosplayers would use the restooms in the station, shops and local game arcades to put on their costumes, make-up and whatnot — something that apparently annoyed businesses.
In hopes of bringing the gap between cosplayers and the old dudes who patrol Akihabara as part of its neighbourhood watch and governing body, a meeting was set up with a band of cosplayers. Apparently, they arrived late, and one of the cosplayers, who was dressed as Yui Hirasawa from K-On, seems to have tripped and fell. Impressed, the old men were not.
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