While Japan is very well known for its unique and rich history, it is almost equally as famous for its modern cultural exports such as video games and anime. Anime is synonymous with Japan and many of everyone’s favourite games have been branded with a Made in Japan hot iron. Many people come to Japan for the sole purpose of exceeding their baggage limit with special edition games or action figures.
The undisputed king of anime and gaming goods is Akihabara in Tokyo however following closely behind with its own unique Osaka flavour is Nipponbashi or Den Den town (electric town) as it’s known locally. Den Den Town is located a 5-minute walk south-east from Namba station, which is the heart of Osaka.
Walking through Den Den town you will be greeted by flyer wielding maids trying to fill up their maid cafe’s or UFO catching parlours (UFO catches are similar to crane games) with new customers. Pressing through the French maid outfits you’ll notice that you’ll be walking amongst giant Gundam billboards towering down at you, Toy stores with action figures spilling out to the street, computer and video game stores exploding with light & sound and the odd space battle fleet captain taking some time off in between warp jumps.
Although this is a feast of sight and sound Den Den town really transforms in late February or March for the Nipponbashi Festival or Nipponbashi Street Festa as it’s called here. Thousands gather in Den Den town sporting colourful gravity-defying hair and equally eye-grabbing garments from their favourite character. Yes anyone and everyone dons a wig, plastic sword and some flamboyant armour. If you have a favourite anime you can wager on a character from it making an appearance no matter how obscure it is.
The festival kicks off with a parade of the maids and characters from the local stores. Huge floats roll by with cosplayers hanging off them. It’s a flow of bright colours and body-clinging garments. From there on some of the well-known or top cosplayers come out and get swarmed by professional and amateur photographers alike. Imitating poses from their characters or making their own up. It could be questioned if some of them are even real characters or they just like dressing up. Regardless of the authenticity of some characters, a lot of efforts is put into this impressive display. Teams of 5 – 10 people will dress up as a squad of characters from the same show with a synchronisation of poses and outfits. Things wind down around late afternoon when everyone hangs up their blue wigs and go back to their relatively normal lives.