Let me dispel a few myths about the mythical electric city
of Akihabara, having been there twice in the past two weeks.
Most likely Akihabara boasts the highest concentration of electrical stores in the world. And yes, Akihabara has lots of consumer electronics. And nowadays there are even lots of places that sell computer hardware.
(you knew this was coming, didn't you?), most of things in Akihabara are no longer extraordinarily recent or extraordinarily cheap. You can probably find a couple of the newer consumer goods from Japanese companies, such as Sony
, and Fuji
, but the technology gap is nothing like it used to be. I've seen most of the high-end models available in Akihabara also available in the states (albeit only online most of the time).
Also keep in mind that cultural preferences might also affect the inventory of things you're looking for. For instance, in the realm of personal audio
. Akihabara would be a great place to look for an MD
player, but it's portable MP3 player
selection is really not so good.
Realistically, there are also lots of things you can't really buy at Akihabara even if you really wanted to. Yes, maybe a personal audio
player, perhaps a digital camera
, and a boombox even if you're really a high roller. But are you really rich enough to have the really sweet 35 inch flatscreen TV
you saw sent back to your home country? And besides that, most likely there will be voltage differences, voiding of warranties, and other hassles involved with buying expensive electronics in foreign countries.
And it's pretty much a mistake to buy any sort of pre-built computer system in Akihabara. From my wanderings, I've found that the prices are high for not so very good computers. Though I believe this statement applies more generally throughout Japan
, and not just specifically at Akihabara. However, the small pocket computers
are very nice, if you can get used to the Japanese keyboards
. Some of the symbol keys are in different locations, and the spacebar
is tiny due to the fact that there are buttons next to spacebar
which switch between English
typing. I used to hit these all the time when I started using Japanese
computers all the time...and it annoyed the hell out of me.
There is also now another hazard built into shopping at Akihabara, which is the fact that Akihabara now has a reputation. As you can guess, this reputation means more people which creates greater demand which in turn resulted in raised prices. However, it is possible to haggle at most places in Akihabara, though many of the clerks only know basic English. Is your Japanese
good enough to haggle with a sales clerk? If not...well, caveat emptor
. Having an idea of the price of what you want is a good way to prepare, but doesn't help all if you're an impulse kind of buyer.
So while Akihabara may not be the electronics heaven
that it is often made out to be, it is an excellent place to buy all sorts of nice anime
and video game
related gear. Akihabara has within it's dominion the two seven story anime
store monoliths known as Gamers
(the store that has been immortalized as Mega Gamers in the webcomic MegaTokyo
, and had it's mascot made into a TV series known as Digi Charat
as well) and Animate
. There are also lots of smaller shops, which basically adds up to a lot of shopping and money spending for the anime
and video game
Still, Akihabara is probably the best place to go if you want to do some old-fashioned walking around shopping for electronics
. Although buying everything online
wouldn't be as much fun, it would most likely be far more practical and easy.