Tokyo pop culture center is a reflection of what young otaku are into, which means it never stays the same for very long.

Arguably more so than any other neighborhood in Tokyo, Akihabara’s atmosphere is youthful and futuristic. As a mecca of teen and early adult-centric pop culture and technology, Akihabara is constantly evolving into a newer version of itself as old landmarks are removed or replaced.

As proof, take a look at this series of paired photos from Japanese Twitter account Photo Akiba, showing the same locations in Akihabara but taken 10 years apart from each other.

▼ 10 years ago (top) vs. present day (bottom)

For starters, Akihabara Station has gotten a major overhaul. 10 years ago, the neighborhood was still primarily a place to quietly do your shopping for electronics or anime merchandise, then go home. The otaku culture boom, though, plus a huge influx of overseas visitors, has made Akihabara a place to gather with like-minded hobbyists and travelers, with the station building-attached Atre department store ready to provide a variety of shopping and dining options.

As is often the case in downtown Tokyo, Akihabara doesn’t have much empty space left, which means that it grows upward instead of outward. 10 years ago, the multi-colored, text-filled sign on this corner was an immediate visual shorthand for Akihabara, but it’s since been replaced by a building more than twice as tall as its predecessor.

Not every angle of Akihabara has changed dramatically, though. Some blocks don’t look all that different.

Though sometimes it takes a trained otaku eye to see how much has changed. For example, someone without an interest in anime might not be able to tell you what makes the top photo in this pair look dated.

Otaku, though, will quickly recognize the blue-haired schoolgirl on the skyscraper ad in the top photo as Konata, the main character of anime franchise Lucky Star, which was phenomenally popular in 2007, but not nearly relevant enough anymore to warrant such large-scale advertising.

Photo Akiba’s pictures stirred feelings of nostalgia among old Akihabara hands, prompting comments such as:

“You can feel more of an atmosphere of dreams and hope in the old photos.”
“Video game arcades were more fun in the days of the old photos.”
“Looking at these somehow puts my soul at ease.”
“I liked the grimy feel of the old Akihabara.”
“The taxi [in the last two photos] is still in the exact same spot.”

There’s even a Twitter poll where you can vote on whether you like 10-year-ago Akihabara (top choice) or present-day Akihabara (bottom choice) better, with 60 percent of voters picking the old version as of this writing.

Of course, true traditionalists will likely tell you that they liked Akihabara best 20 years ago, when it still had outdoor basketball courts.

But even as some commenters wax poetic about the Akiba of old, the only constant is change, so for everyone who thinks the neighborhood feels just right right now, enjoy it while it lasts.

Source: Twitter/@PhotoAkiba via Jin
Images: Twitter/@PhotoAkiba

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wonders what happened to that kid he say doing Dragon Punches on the corner in Akihabara the summer Street Fighter II came out for the Super Famicom.