When I meet young people overseas, I often ask them where they want to go in Tokyo. They tell me several places, and Akihabara ranks high among them. They also know Akihabara is often called by its nickname, Akiba. Each time I walk around Akihabara, I see many travelers from across the world.
There's one thing in Akihabara these travelers seem to have yet to notice but which will likely enchant them once they know about it - Akiba Cultures Theater.
It's one of the numerous live show houses operating here and there across Tokyo, except it has its own characteristics associated with its location. Here, visitors can sit and enjoy concerts by idols. In this respect, it's more like a theatre.
Usually, people enjoy idols' concerts while standing, regardless of the size of the venue and whether seats are available. The practice really helps fans feel closer to those on stage and enjoy the concerts to the fullest.
But if venues' audience areas are not on an incline, people can't see the performances on stage well, particularly around the feet of the idols, unless they are near the stage.
Of course, fans want to not only hear the idols' singing, but also see the idols' dancing with no visual obstructions. Akiba Cultures Theater is designed to meet all these demands.
"Our theatre is like a select shop of idols," said Misano Suzuki, manager of the theatre. "Visitors can sit and see their performances in a more relaxed atmosphere."
A "select shop" is a theatre that not only provides performing space at the request of idols, but also selects the idols to perform there. So it's a kind of connoisseur of idols.
At the back of the audience area, some standing room space is set aside for people who like to stand during the shows.
Hearing the theatre's concept sparked my hope that travelers from overseas would go and see idols' shows at the theatre.
In the comfortable atmosphere, they can see shows from idols who are rapidly gaining in popularity or have the potential of becoming popular.
It may be fun for them to come to the theatre more than once while they are in Japan to discover their favourite idols.
Suzuki said she had thought about how to attract and entertain visitors from abroad at the theatre and came up with the idea of potentially using the theatre for them during the daytime.
"I am considering holding concerts that cover popular songs of idols in the afternoon," she said.
Theatres, halls, baseball stadiums, classrooms or any structures for commercial use are worthless without visitors.
Selected idol concerts for travelers from overseas would have a bit of a different taste from concerts at night and will probably be accepted well by people who want to thoroughly enjoy Akihabara.
Overseas fans could come to the theatre during the day to get a taste of a concert, and then they could come again at night to enjoy concerts with Japanese fans. New people from overseas filling out the audience will certainly invigorate idols and their fans. It will help evolve idol culture, too.
When I went to the theatre for this column, five members of LinQ, an idol group based in Fukuoka, were having a show. Although the idol group is based in Fukuoka, it's active nationwide and regularly ranks high on hit charts.
LinQ members often tell me they want foreign people to come see their concerts. I hope I can put on some events with them overseas. I also hope their concerts in Japan will attract many foreign people.
Akihabara developed from a town of home electrical appliances to a town of software, and now, has begun evolving into a place for throwing idol concerts for the global community.
(The next instalment will appear March 28.)