Monday, September 17, 2007


Akihabara Electric Town (Akihabara Denki Gai) is known to be one of the world's largest shopping district for Electronics, anime, et al. It is a neighborhood in Tokyo which has duty free shops and sells different kinds of interesting merchandise.

On my first week (September)here in Japan, we were given 2 free days to explore. Since my partner wanted to buy a laptop, Akihabara was the very first thing to come in mind. During our first time in Akiba (for short), we had just stepped out of the Akihabara JR station when we received an email from Sakurai-san (Sr. Manager from a-LINK) that we should go to office because Adachi-san, the president would be expecting us. A train ride coming from Shin-Yokohama to Akihabara costs 620yen. It was our mistake that we did not drop by the office but headed directly to Akiba instead.

Now that we are in Satte City, total cost for going to Akiba amounts to 1140yen (single trip). Our way was to ride at the Tobu line in Satte then go north towards the nearest JR line (Kurihashi). It takes 1 hour and 2 minutes (based on the time table) from Kurihashi to Akihabara, not counting the time when changing trains. Japan's Railway system is very efficient that you would be less likely to get lost. The railways are interconnected that you often have to transfer trains in order to reach your desired destination. What's fascinating is that the trains always come on time. [inset: part of JR line map]

In the Philippines, people tend to go to Greenhills when searching for electronic stuffs such as laptops, PDAs, cellphones, etc. Another place to search for goodies is Quiapo which has a variety of stuffs ranging from electronics (Raon), entertainment (DVDs) and even the weird stuffs (pampalaglag, sex toys, etc). Here in Japan, you can see lots of merchandise here in Akiba. [inset: me with Akiba as background]

Just like Quiapo in the Philippines, Akihabara is a very interesting place because of the different kinds of people who go there everyday. Foreigners are rare in Japan but you would see many in Akiba; probably shopping for electronic gadgets or for their line of hobby. Foreigners are not the only customers of the Akiba shops, but Japanese people as well, particularly the ones referred to as Otaku. Otakus are described to be dedicated fanatics of certain genre/hobby such as anime, manga, toys etc.

Maid Cafe
Due to its popularity since 2000, Akihabara had been closely associated with the maid cafe concept. Maid cafes are cosplay restaurants having Japanese women usually clad in French-maid costumes wherein they generally role-play as a household servants and treat you in honorific terms. This may be a weird for us, but these generally caters to the Otaku culture. So when you come to Akihabara, you get to encounter a lot of maids doing their cutesy stuffs. [inset: maid handing out free paper napkins]

The Streets

We went to Akihabara on a Sunday, and the main street was closed to traffic (I'm not sure though if it is normally closed). People are able to walk freely within the place and it sort of reminds me of Baguio City during Flower Festival (February) wherein Session Road is also closed to traffic; thus, people are able to walk along the streets.

These are shots I took from the main street:
[Audio system is connected to the motorcycle. Japanese singing J-pop]

[Balloon tricks]

[for the kinky minded]

[Cosplayers and the Maids]

Computers and Laptops
Anyway, we went to Akihabara not to ogle on chicks but rather to buy electronic stuffs. My partner desperately needs another laptop so that he can communicate with his wife and daughter in the Philippines via Skype. Electronic gadgets in Akihabara are indeed cheap, but if you plan on buying computers and laptops, you have to be aware about compatibility issues.

Most laptops are pre-installed with Japanese OS versions, and when we asked if we can install English versions on top of that, the answer was always a No. The duty free shops sell laptops that support English OSes but they have a more premium price compared to the Jap OS laptops.

Another example are game consoles, Wii sold in Japan costs about 25k Yen, but the English versions are being sold twice the price of the Jap versions! (50k++yen). I am not sure though if there is a cheap workaround for these compatibility issues. I'd be very much interested to know.

My partner bought his laptop for 100k Yen. It's not really bad and is still cheap compared to buying in the Philippines, but the Japanese OS laptops are even cheaper. So maybe, if I'm already good at Nihonggo (with all those Kanjis), then I would have no problem buying those Japanese laptops.

Electronic Dictionary
I bought myself an electronic dictionary for 24k Yen. It's not really the cheapest, but I aimed for it's "IME pad" capabilites so that I am able to write and search for Kanji. I believe I got it at a good price because similar items are being sold at an average of 28k Yen and above. In the place where I bought it, they told me that the model was in SALE (Japanese call it as 'campaign'). I was even given a free stylus pen(aside from the default). Great!

On this same day, Geoff Fadera (Anritsu) and some Astra peeps had gone to Disneyland. I did not join them because I 'promised' that I would help my partner buy his laptop at Akihabara. Maybe next time.


posted by ScIoN 11:20 AM


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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

ScIoN is a former Systems Engineer in Japan who specialized in industrial imaging and digital hardware design. He is now back in the Philippines pursuing graduate studies in Finance at the University of the Philippines - Diliman.



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