Chances are if you are buying electronics in Tokyo you will go to Akihabara which has street upon street of stores devoted to the sale of electrical goods and cameras. Akihabara is also a centre for Otaku (geek) culture for those people really into their anime and manga.
Things to Do in Akhibara
I was pretty overwhelmed with the choice of stores of electrical goods. Many of them cater specifically to the Japanese market and sales staff don’t speak much English. You really need to know what you want to buy if you don’t speak Japanese.
Check out the store Super Potato! which is into retro gaming. Although my kids know about Super Mario and Donkey Kong, I introduced them to other favourites from my childhood. Remember Pac Man?
Maid Cafes and Other Dubious Places
Unlike Yodobashi which is located on the east side of Akihabara, many of the electronics stores are on the west side. Following the crowds towards the west side of the station, the children and I had an eye-opening experience.
Well, technically, the kids were somewhat oblivious and I went to great efforts to keep them that way. That was only after we walked into a sex store though.
My daughter was looking at cute fluffy bunny outfits which were right inside the entrance to a store when a horrified sales woman came running up to me. She was waving her hands no and saying something in Japanese. Over her head I could just make out a porn film playing on a television screen. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and told her they only had big girl sizes and walked out. Big parenting fail.
When you have any number of geeky people in one place, you are going to have places that meet their social needs. There were quite a few pachinko parlours around. Pachinko is a Japanese slot machine which people use for gambling because gambling itself is illegal in Japan.
Maid Cafes are where young women dress up as maids and cater to men (and women I hear) who visit. The men are made to feel like kings in their own home. Presumably they don’t have wives, girlfriends or significant others (or at least ones who don’t feel like catering to their egos).
I had to walk all the way around Akihabara station to find Yodobashi Camera. Quite a few of the store windows had signs for sex toys, blow up dolls and other stuff. Luckily most of it was in Japanese. Of course, when things are in a different language, your eye is automatically drawn to the English words.
I was just waiting for a little voice to ask ‘mummy, what’s a dildo?’ Aaack. I could not walk those streets fast enough.
Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara
I was told by my friend in Tokyo to go to Yodobashi Camera because I wanted to get a mirrorless camera. I figured Tokyo would be a great place to buy a new camera because the Japanese love their photography and photographic equipment.
Yodobashi is an enormous electronics store with 8 branches in Tokyo alone. With nine floors, I felt that anything you could possibly want is there. We stuck to the floor with the cameras which in itself was enormous.
You should note that all the prices are in yen but the helpful sale staff can calculate the price in US dollars. Make sure you bring your passport so that you can get a tax refund. You also need to research your prices because not everything is cheaper in Japan just because it is made there.
I was so frazzled by my inadvertent sex store experience that I opted to have lunch with the children on the 8th floor of Yodobashi. As you would expect, there is a plethora of choice. Not only do you have a Japanese cafeteria style place but there are also separate restaurants. We chose to visit a noodle restaurant where we had an excellent meal.
My Olympus Mirrorless Camera
I was looking for a mirrorless camera for the times I didn’t want to haul the big DSLR around with me. As much as I love the camera on my iPhone 6, sometimes I needed a more powerful lens. In addition, my iPhone’s memory was filling up quickly with all the photos and videos I took. So I did my research online and settled on an Olympus OM-D model with a zoom lens.
What do I think of my Olympus OM-D? My mirrorless camera is better for photos and video than my iPhone 6. I still love my Canon EOS 6D DSLR with its choice of lenses. I love the way it feels in my hand and the photos I take with it.
People say that the mirrorless cameras are just as good as the DSLRs. It depends on your model I would think and I did opt for a budget version. Although my DSLR is still my favourite camera, I’m taking less photos with my smartphone in favour of my mirrorless Olympus.
Akihabara is massive train station which is served by both JR lines and Tokyo’s subway system. On Sunday afternoons, the main street, Chuo Dori, is pedestrian-only. Most of the electronic stores seem to be open 7 days a week.
Yodobashi is right across the street from Akihabara station if you use the central exit. If you have little kids with you, wander the streets at your own peril. In retrospect, I would have been better off at the Yodobashi in Shinjuku which is a more mainstream part of Tokyo.