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Akihabara fans shed a tear as iconic sign comes down, changing the cityscape of Electric Town

These photos capture the late-night action that spells the end of an era for Electric Town.

Akihabara is known around the world as the place to go for a wide-eyed peek into Japan’s otaku geek culture, with multi-level stores packed to the brim with manga, anime, and gaming goods.

It wasn’t always this way, though. Back in the 1940s, shortly after World War II and long before the area devoted itself to cute anime merchandise and maid cafes, Akihabara thrived as a black market area. The marketplace eventually transformed into stores specialising in household electronics like refrigerators, stereos, televisions and washing machines, earning it the nickname “Electric Town“, a title that’s still around today.

Image: Flickr/Leo Lambertini

For diehard fans of Akihabara, these longstanding electronics stores are the heart and soul of the bustling district, and remnants of Electric Town, which thrived in the heyday of the 80s and 90s, remain a big part of the iconic cityscape cherished by many today.

Image: Flickr/IQRemix

One store, with a history that goes back to its establishment in the area back in 1951, is particularly loved for its retro neon sign, which looks like something you’d see in an anime film. The long, slim sign, brandishing the word “Panasonic“, belongs to the four-storey Onoden, an electronics store popular with foreign tourists for its duty-free merchandise.

▼ Beneath the word “Panasonic” is the name of the store, “Onoden”, written in English and Japanese.

Having been part of the Akihabara cityscape for a number of years, it came as a huge shock to many when news of the neon sign’s sudden disappearance started spreading online. Twitter user and photographer @kaztsu was there to capture the late-night moment when workers removed the sign from its home beside the Onoden store.

▼ The photos show the enormous scale of the sign as it was carefully lowered from the side of the building.

▼ The sign was split into two pieces and placed on the back of a truck for removal to an unknown destination.

As soon as these photos surfaced, Tokyoites were quick to share their feelings about the poignant change to the look of the neighbourhood.

“That feeling is no longer there anymore when you get off the Yamanote line.”

“The Onoden you can see from here is what makes Akihabara.”

With the store itself still in operation, many were left wondering what was behind the decision to take the sign down. One Twitter user thought it might have been taken away to fix the lower portion, which had been unlit recently, but that portion could have been fixed without removing the entire sign. Still, given that the even more iconic red “Onoden” signage above the store is also missing some lit tubes, they fear this piece of street memorabilia might be due to go sometime in the future as well.

While there’s been no official announcement made by the store as to why the sign was removed, it’s not the first time a well-loved sign has disappeared from Akihabara. Back in 2015, a signboard featuring the Gamers retail chain company mascot, Dejiko, (pictured on the right of the tweet below) was replaced with an ad for a duty-free store (pictured below left).

In a city that’s forever evolving and adapting to new demands and trends, especially in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, changes like this are an inevitable occurrence. Whether or not Onoden’s neon sign will be making a return in the future remains yet to be seen, but in Akihabara, a much-loved area amongst eagle-eyed electronics fans, if there are any more changes to Electric Town, we can rest assured they’ll be there to notice it and let us know.

Source: Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Twitter/@kaztsu

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