Spent the entire day today at Akibahara, the mecca for all gadget-geeks. It’s everything I had imagined it to be and then some. So here’s the run-down.
I extended my trip for an additional two more days here in Tokyo just to visit and see this famous place among gadget-freaks. I thought a half a day of surveillance and a whole day of shopping would be enough but turns out you’ll need more than just a couple of days to sweep the entire Akihabara district.
Buildings up to 6 floors are all full of gadgets and electronics. My first stop was Yodobashi-Akiba. The place is always packed from morning ’til evening. Each floor has specific categories for electronics — there’s one for mobile, then PC/Mac, home electronics, a floor for games and hobbies, another one for PC parts, then cameras and so on and so forth.
Yodobashi seems to be the biggest one among the IT malls and most complete as well. It’s similar to the Funan IT Mall in Singapore but is more organized since the building is under one brand. Imagine Octagon with the entire Cyberzone just under its name. Then, multiply that 6 more floors. That’s how it would look like.
There are actually a lot of offers and discounts here but since everything is in Japanese, I couldn’t understand what the Gold Points are, which credit cards to use to get additional 5% discount on purchases or when to claim exemption for 5% usage tax (just don’t open the items or use them while in Japan).
The second stop is the SofMap Megastore. It’s almost the same as the Yodobashi but this time, they also offer second-hand items. Some of the ones I can remember are SE Experia X10 (Php12k), iPhone 3G (Php10k), 3GS (Php15k), a Canon S90 (Php9k), an LX3 (Php12k). I almost bought the LX3 only to discover that the manual and menus are all in Japanese, thanks to the English-Translation sales guy who cleared that up for me and canceled the transaction.
The other problem with the second-hand phones is that they’re locked to a carrier (eMobile, SoftBank or NTT Docomo) so you still have to bring it to VirraMall to have it unlocked.
As for the actual prices of brand new items, I was disappointed that they’re practically the same as in the Philippines. Sometimes, I think they’re even more expensive.
I had to go to the iPad/Mac section every once in a while to browse the price list in the Philippines but for the most part, the savings aren’t that big. For example, an 8GB iPod Touch 4G costs Â¥20,800 or about Php11,000. The Macbook Air 11.6″ costs Â¥88,800 (Php47,200). The Nintendo Wii seems pretty cheap though (Â¥20,000 or Php10,600).
The camera lenses seem more expensive too. I think Hidalgo offers much better deals. There are second-hand lenses too but I don’t really trust those very much especially when you’re spending for a Php45k Canon EF 18-105mm L F/4.
Was able to see Kinect for XBox 360 too which is cool. Wanted to buy the set but then again, they kept on warning me about Japanese language on the devices.
The smaller shops that line the streets are also exciting since you get to see the weird gadgets. The second hand laptops are also very cheap here. The best bargain I’ve seen is an old 12″ IBM ThinkPad X60s which sells for around Php12,500. I think all the other 2nd-hand laptops start at that price.
While the big stores only sell locked phones with 24-month contracts (I thought the Samsung Galaxy Tab was selling for just Php23k but turns out, it comes with a plan too), the street shops offer them mostly unlocked but at a much higher price. Saw the Desire HD selling between Php42k and Php45k while the Desire Z was going for Php36k. I guess the Japanese aren’t that big with prepaid SIMs (or the subsidies are really very attractive).
Pocket WiFi like the one from Huawei seems to be the hot item this season. They’re all over the place (but comes with a contract again) and are oftentimes bundled with a netbook, an iPod Touch or an iPad.
The streets are as interesting as well. Lots of girls in cosplay attire and encouraging people to come into their stores. Lots of arcade halls, anime comics stores, DVD and hobby shops. Vending machines line up the streets, subways, hotels — they’re everywhere. Japan is a like a vendo-country.
Over-all, it was an awesome experience. I think the one and a half day tour of the Akihabara district wasn’t enough but the stay sure did offer a good glimpse of the gadget mecca. At the end of the day, I’ve already ran out of cash and my credit card is maxed out. I’ll blog about some of the items I bought (no big ticket items though) — just the ones that are interesting or not found in the Philippines.