Akihabara Cleanup Squad Keeps Otaku Holy Land in Tip-Top Shape
As the “holy land” of otaku, Akihabara gets a lot of visitors. That means it gets a lot of litter, too. This has been a problem for quite some time, and there have been some community-driven efforts over the years to address it.
Every year for the past ten years, there has been an annual Akihabara cleanup event. This is organized by the Akihabara Cleanup Squad, a non-profit organization whose members include Akihabara’s residents, shop owners, and city council members. I decided to get involved myself this year, which was very easy to do. All I had to do was show up outside the Akihabara UDX building on the day, where I was given a pair of tongs and assigned to a group. After picking up rubbish for about two hours, I returned to the UDX, where a Chiyoda ward council member greeted us with an emotional speech about what a great job we did and started handing out free chocolate to everybody.
All in all, it was a typical yet satisfying day of community service, but this being Akihabara, you’d know there’d be an anime twist to it somewhere. A few local cosplayers and maid café employees showed up to thank everyone for participating and even helped with the cleanup themselves. It was a chilly fall day in Tokyo, and I had to wonder if those girls weren’t shivering in their short skirts, but they seemed to be having fun.
The idea of asking anime fans to participate in voluntary cleanups isn’t new, nor is it even much of an oddity to see cosplayers armed with brooms and tongs. Earlier this month, cosplayers volunteered to clean up Ikebukuro in the wake of the Animate Girls Festival, an event that saw over 86,000 attendees over two days.
And yet in spite of all of these headline stories of otaku goodwill, the Akihabara Cleanup Squad has admitted to having trouble with spreading the word. Takaya Kobayashi, a Chiyoda ward council member and an organizer of the Akihabara Cleanup Squad, said that it costs a lot to put up posters, and that the initiative has always struggled with funding. These cleaning efforts should by no means be taken for granted.
Having participated in a cleanup myself, I can appreciate why each and every volunteer is needed. Tokyo has a well-earned reputation for being a clean city, but some parts of Akihabara are lined with cigarette butts and filth. This was especially true around the Showa-Dori exit of Akihabara Station, where many people simply leave their trash. In the end, at least thirty garbage bags were filled—the sign of a job well done.