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08 February, 2013

Shopping in Akihabara

Shopping in Akihabara is hands down a must-do thing if you are a gadget or electronic lover. My recent trip to Tokyo in 2012 left me with choices of places to visit here and this was on top of my list as the last time I visited Akihabara was back in 1990. That was 22 years ago and I had to see how things have changed since my last visit here. To my surprise, the development of Akihabara left me speechless as from a mere few streets of electrical gadgets, it has extended into such a large place. I remember back then, I managed to cover most of the main places in under half a day. This time around, that same time only let me to see probably half of the entire place. 

Gadgets and such sold in boxed outside stores

I remember those days where traders would stand on boxes with loudhailers yelling in Japanese about the sale going on. Headphones, mini disc players, Walkman's were the rave then. These days, I simply saw young Japanese girls dressed in cute uniforms giving out leaflets to passerby's inviting them to go to the selected shops. They can be spotted at most junctions along the main street here. Even in the cold weather, the were seen mostly in skimpy school uniforms or maid costumes with colorful wigs and knee high stockings. Ahh... Japan!

Main shopping area

Seems like the bigger corporations have put dominance along the main streets with huge mega electrical stores and hyper marts. Some even multiple floors high. My exploration once again took me towards the back lanes of Akihabara where I stumbled upon the good old small vendors that sold all sorts of gadgets, second hand goods and many other interesting and quirky items. It is at these little stores where you have to sieve through boxes of stuff and you may find something interesting.

Cameras sold on the streets in Akihabara

While walking around the back lanes, I also noticed many Japanese Maid Cafes operating especially on the first floor of the buildings. Cute Japanese girls in maid costumes would be standing at the balcony clapping their hands and shouting some Japanese words to get customers attention. Well, that being one of the top novelties in Japan, I totally pushed that curiosity out of my head and continued with my fascination of the electric city here. Really, I did!

Electrical goods on display

Among the things that amazed me were how some of these vendors put really high end electrical items like video cameras and digital cameras on plain tables with a tablecloth outside their shop where in Kuala Lumpur, they would be behind lock and key in a glass cabinet which is out of reach from the customer. A Canon Video Recorded which sold for $500 here was selling for only $150 there. Again, I was just astonished and went along my way. Other items that were interesting included hard disc which came in 2.5 to 3 Terra Bytes and the price was 30-40% cheaper than here in Malaysia!

Cheap phones and tablets

In 2012, the iPhone 4s and iPad 2 was the hottest item around and over here in Akihabara, they were selling for dirt cheap! Only catch, it was all in Japanese. I managed to find a salesperson who spoke very basic English and he told me that the cheap units were actually only for Japanese use and not overseas. So if you are looking for really good deals here, you should double check if the items are for worldwide use. However exploring a camera shop was interesting as they items sold there were in fact for worldwide use. All models are about $75-150 cheaper than in Malaysia but here is the catch - The units all come with Japanese text display. So you need to get them to change it to English before leaving the store.

For Japanese Manga lovers or gamers, this would also be a haven for you. My advice, bring a Japanese friend who can translate everything to you, otherwise you will be in for some language issues if you do not speak Japanese. There were tons of games being sold, some even in bundles. A friend of mine who was exploring the other parts found a super deal here. He went through some of the boxes displayed outside a store and six second hand Nintendo DX Lite sets which were selling for about $30 each. Taking all six, he eventually got them for $25 each. So, if you are into certain electrical or gaming stuff, this would be your mecca.

Akihabara main street

The rest of the afternoon, I indulged myself by trying to cover the most of the place but ended up not buying anything. I was looking for a DSLR camera so most of the places I ventured into were camera stores. I saw a few but again, the Japanese in-screen text turned me off. Maybe the next time I visit Akihabara, I would have something that I would need. Who knows. Anyway, below are a few more pictures taken around this amazing place.  

Left - A Japanese girl in costume promoting, Right - Streets of Akihabara

Sega Building

A popular Maid Cafe in Akihabara

Japanese Maid Costumes for sale!

My trip to Tokyo was via AirAsia X as the airline flies straight into Haneda Airport in Tokyo, which I find is much more convenient compared to Narita Airport. This was my second trip here after visiting Osaka with the same airline a few months earlier. Find out what to do in Osaka if you plan to visit this other amazing Japanese city.
 
Overall, Akihabara is a must-visit place in Tokyo if you love electronics and gadgets. On the bright side, if you are following your spouse, friend of loved one, do check out some of the quirky items being sold there. What I mean is that I saw some shops selling - of all things, Maid Costumes! Ready to wear too. I guess there is a market for these and they were relatively cheap too. Food is available throughout the area as there are some great Japanese Ramen shops and some popular fast food joints. I would recommend spending at least 4-6 hours here if you plan to do some shopping in Akihabara.
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1 comments:

Samsung Rex 90 S5292 GPS said... 15 February 2013 11:25

Tokyo shopping comes in many shapes and sizes and suits all pockets and budgets. Choose from every kind of fashion conceivable, accessories, gadgets and electronics.

Item Reviewed: Shopping in Akihabara Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: David Jr
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