And no, Japan’s otaku mecca isn’t empty because of the coronavirus.

Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood has an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the city. It’s a place where the otaku subculture becomes the predominant passion, with a constant focus on the latest and greatest creations from Japan’s anime and video game professionals and enthusiasts.

But while that otaku aesthetic often makes stepping into Akihabara feel like setting foot in another world, Japanese Twitter user @urbex_34 recently shared a collection of photos that make the neighborhood look otherworldly in a whole different way by being completely devoid of people.

“It feels like I’ve gotten lost in an alternate world,” tweeted @urbex_34 with the photos. With Akihabara’s colorful shop fronts shuttered and the soft light of the street lamps reflecting off the wet pavement, the images can instill feelings of tranquil beauty and unsettling emptiness.

If you’ve ever visited the area and seen it packed with shoppers and sightseers, it’s hard to imagine the area becoming such a silent void, and commenters were startled and enchanted by @urbex_34’s photos.

“That’s magical. So beautiful.”
“Definitely a Spirited Away thing going on.”
“Neo Tokyo.”
“Is this an isekai?”
“It’s like one of the Yakuza video games has rendered the environment, but the developers haven’t added the NPCs yet.”
“Expecting people in black bodysuits to pop out and start fighting aliens.”

Given the current health climate in Japan, you might be thinking the sparsely populated conditions are due to tourists, both domestic and international, staying away from Akihabara because of coronavirus concerns. As several commuters pointed out, though, this level of emptiness is actually business as usual for Akihabara…if you go late at night.

While the otaku culture boom of the last decade or so has made Akihabara world-famous, it’s still primarily a shopping destination. Most retail stores close down around 9 p.m, and while the neighborhood has a lot of restaurants where you can grab ramen, beef bowls, or Final Fantasy-themed food, it’s pretty light on bars, izakaya pubs, and other establishments that cater to the late-night heavy-drinking crowd.

So while the party goes all night long in some parts of Tokyo, like Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Shibuya, Akihabara largely empties out after dinner time, and since there’re aren’t a lot of apartments of condos in the area, there aren’t many local residents milling around after the shops and stores close down.

▼ More of @urbex_34’s beautiful photography

So the next time you’re finding yourself a little overwhelmed by Tokyo’s crowds, remember that if you head over to Akihabara after business hours, the streets are empty and waiting for a nocturnal stroll or photo session.

Source: Twitter/@urbex_34 via Hachima Kiko
Images: Twitter/@urbex_34
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