Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Computer Nerd's Take On Akihabara

Jen and I agreed that she would write up what we did the day we went to Akihabara, but we agreed that I would do an additional article as a computer nerd's take on what is essentially Japanese nerd central.

Akihabara is known as 'denki town' (electric town) because it is a maze of electronic stores that sell all sort of electronic gadgets, video games and computer gear. It is also home to what is probably the biggest collection of manga and anime (japanese comics and cartoons) shops in Tokyo.

Many people claim that Japan is ahead of the rest of the world in terms of electronics and computers. After visiting Akihabara, I would have to say that I disagree. Let me explain... They definitely have the latest electronics and computers, but they are by no means ahead of anywhere else. Pretty much everything we saw in Akihabara anyone in little old Perth could either buy from a shop in Perth or at the very least order it over the internet.

HOWEVER, what you CANT do in Perth is go into one single bloody department store and buy EVERYTHING in one fell swoop! THAT is the difference between Akihabara and the rest of the world in terms of computers and electronic gadgets.

As Jenni mentioned in the previous post, the first Akihabara store we went into was Yodobashi Akiba. This is the Mecca of electronics. It is a EIGHT storey high electronics store, with each floor about the size of a single floor in Perth's Murray St Myer Store. The first floor was just mobile phones, netbooks and laptops. I have NEVER seen so many mobile phones for sale as well as so many phone accessories. I am talking aisle upon aisle of headphones, replacement batterys, phone cases, you name it, they have it. They had pretty much the same netbooks and laptops available that we have in Australia, but already have the newest models that we would not be getting for another month or two. I was quite surprised to see that the prices of the netbooks and laptops were actually about 3/4 of the price that we would pay for the same models in Australia.

The 2nd floor was all PC gear and small computers like PDAs. I was quite surprised to see all of this because I always assumed that the Japanese weren't that big into computers, but I must be wrong. I was really surprised to see that you could buy things like replacement laptop batteries and power cords right off the shelf. In Australia, in order to buy these sorts of things, we would have to contact the manufacturer directly.

The 3rd floor was a photographer's heaven. It had pretty much EVERY camera available on the market today. There were hundreds of digital point and shoot cameras, SLRs and even polaroid cameras to choose from. Stands, replacement lenses, bags, etc etc were also available to buy.

The rest of floors had heaps of other electronic things in them that I will skip over, but I will have to mention the video game and toys floor. This floor was completely jam packed full of anime toys, hundreds.. nay, thousands of boxes of model Gundams - popular cartoon robots (Anth: You have to check out the pictures, you will probably wet your pants!) and stacks of video games. I was not surprised to see that Nintendo hailed supreme in the video game section taking up about half of it. Just like the mobile phone section there was stacks of Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS accessories. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Xbox 360 section was about the same size as the PS3 section (but neither was anywhere near the size of the Nintendo section). One thing that they had which we don't get many of in Australia was hint guide books. There was a rather large section of video game hint guides with a guide for every game under the sun available for purchase.

Speaking about books, the floor above the video game and anime floor was the books floor. About a quarter of this dedicated to Japanese comics. The comics were quite cheap in comparison to the imported ones that we can get in Perth (about half the price).

Another highlight of Akihabara was the video game arcade that we went into. We have noticed that instead of standard arcade games, most people play "UFO" games. The name of these games in Perth are "Skill Testers", the ones where you have to try and navigate a claw to pick up a prize (in Perth, it is typically a stuffed toy, but in the arcades here the prizes range from anime figurines to boxes of chocolates). I did have a go of a 'standard' arcade game (Anth: if you didn't wet yourself before, you probably will now!). It was a Gundam game where you have to first buy a 'pilot card' from a machine that prints out a card like a credit card with your 'pilot name' on it. You then you take the card and go into a private giant cockpit, insert the card and then you get to pilot a virtual Gundam. You use it to fight against other people in a giant virtual arena. The game connects to the interent, so you can be fighting against people who are playing in other arcades around Japan, not just the one you are in. There is a voice communication and everything, so you can try and co-ordinate your attacks with your team mates - although this didn't really help me because I had no idea what they were saying.

All in all it was a pretty interesting day. With all of the computers, video games, anime, manga and girls dressed up as maids trying to hand you flyers to go to their 'Maid Cafes' on the street, I definitely feel like I need to watch a good old game of football to make myself feel less nerdy and more 'blokey' again... not that I was ever that 'blokey' to begin with!

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