Tokyo Hackerspace – Akihabara Station Video Tour

This is the kind of footage that makes our mouths water here at Hackaday. [Akiba] of Freaklabs has been kind enough to take us all on a video tour of Akihabara Station, a treasure trove for electronics hackers located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. The highlight includes surplus stores, specialty electronics shops, and enough silicon to bring an engineer to tears. Rather than waste time reading about it, follow the link and check out the videos in stunning 720p.

Hackers in other parts of the world, what kind of stores and marketplaces do you have like this? Send us your pictures and videos of local marketplaces that cater to your hacking needs so we can show them off.

32 thoughts on “Tokyo Hackerspace – Akihabara Station Video Tour

  1. Akiba, you dont happen to do tours do you, wouldnt mind checking it out next time Im over. Im pretty sure it was only a few stops from Shinjuku(what a station).

    You’ll need to direct me to the shops, missed pretty much all the good ones thanks to the camera/gps/binocular shops.

  2. @mre

    Mmm not sure about that.. the impression I got is there is basically it’s one long street with everything of interest i.e. Akizukidenshi, the various arcade PCB shops, retro games shops like Super Potato etc hanging off at side roads and not all that much else. Sure there’s lots of computer shops etc but most of it is pretty expensive and you can’t go into a shop without some made up blonde guy coming over and trying to sell you stuff. There are the places dotted around that have every single connector or fitting you could ever want.. Try getting a single Hirose FX2 connector in the street anywhere else in the world.. but unless you go out with something to buy in mind the piles and piles of stuff on sale is just going to be confusing. Akizukidenshi has most of the stuff a hobby hacker could ever want and they do online ordering,.. and if you don’t have a Japanese bank account you can pay C.O.D. I used to order stuff and have it sitting on my desk in Hakodate in about 2 days. Other stuff you can order via chip1stop.

    As for the hackerspace.. nice, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge assortment of tools or anything. The biggest thing available seems to be a drill.

  3. @cantido While Akizuki can take care of many things they still can’t match the overall diversity of Akihabara as a whole. The electronics component shops are definitely not all on one street. That’s the whole reason the video was made. Otherwise, we could just point people to some street and tell them to walk down it. The shops are scattered all over the place and many are hidden away on the upper floors of plain looking buildings.

    As for your comment on the hackerspace, I think you’re missing the point. The point of a hackerspace is a gathering area for people that want to make things and do stuff. The tools are just to facilitate that.

  4. I went to Akihabara (after work) five years ago while on assignment in Tokyo. Though I agree with cantido’s comments that it consists mainly of computer shops with pushy salesmen, the interesting thing I noticed was that those few shops that catered to the hobbyist were packed with customers, ranging from schoolboys to middle-aged salarymen.

    I inferred from this that there was still great interest in electronics and being creative in Japan. Don’t know what the state of the electronics hobbyist industry is in other countries but here in Australia, it has almost died. Comparing to Akihabara, as an example, there used to be four stores in Sydney that were next to each other in the same street in the CBD that sold components and competed fiercely with each other. Now there is one.

  5. @Akiba

    Yes, there are hidden gems in Akihabara (note I did say “dotted around”).. for instance if you want really cheap arcade games go and look for Try.. it’s near the Kebab place, basically unmarked and the door is almost always closed as to give the impression that they have shutdown or something. But it’s not some sprawling massive electronics utopia that everyone seems to make out.. anyhow, my comment was mostly about mre’s suggestion that Akihabara is better than mail-order(I guess that includes online); I would strongly disagree with that. If you have something you need, like some specific edge connector or some specific fitting you can probably get it that day by going to Akihabara and stiffing through boxes and boxes of stuff. You’ll probably walk out with the thing you wanted and ten other things you bought because you liked the look of them… Alternatively if you can read enough katakana to work out that maikon = microcontroller you can sit at home and order then parts you want quite easily.

  6. Wow, just wow. Now if only I could live anywere near one of those shops I would be happy for the rest of my life, It’s so hard to find decent electronics places like those in the UK :(.

  7. @Jonam

    >I inferred from this that there was
    >still great interest in electronics
    >and being creative in Japan.

    I wouldn’t say the level of interest is any higher than anywhere else in the world. Japanese hackers are fortunate that they have lots of homegrown technology..
    You can go to a book shop almost anywhere in Japan and pick up books about the Hitachi/Renesas H8 microcontrollers for example. Never seen anyone actually pick one of those books up though.

    >Don’t know what the state of the
    >electronics hobbyist industry

    The same as everywhere else? Like homebrewing beer or CB radio making stuff yourself isn’t in fashion anymore so there aren’t going to be shops catering for it. Maybe bookshops will be gone in a few years?

    >Comparing to Akihabara,

    I think Akihabara is just a little bit special. It’s in Tokyo and it’s famous. That’s probably enough to keep the shops there going.. like everywhere else in the world those shops are selling stuff over the internet as well now.

  8. @Limey

    You can still go and get a range of components at Maplin you realise? If you’re not afraid of the internet there are plenty of hobbyist electronics suppliers in the UK. and come to mind. You don’t have to be a business to order stuff from Farnell either if there is something you really really need. Oh, doesn’t Rapid have a pretty wide selection too? I think both Rapid and Farnell will allow you to go and collect your orders if you really want.

    /me guesses some people don’t look hard enough

  9. @cantido
    Yeah, I buy my stuff from Maplins and Rapid online at the moment, but didnt know about Farnell, will have to check that out. I mean whenever I go instore they always seem to never stock any particular components such as transistors or diodes by value, only in really small assorted bags of random components, and its even like that at their larger stores it really bugs me :/ .

  10. @cantido I agree. Everyone has something they’re interested in and you can see that by the large explosion of hackerspaces in the world, the popularity of Make Magazine, Maker faires, and the hacker conferences. DIY is making a huge push forward into the mainstream these days.

    And actually, I agree that mail order is fine and I buy a lot through Digikey, Mouser, Akizuki, and Marutsu. But being able to physically handle things like enclosures, switches, and cables still can’t be beat. Mechanical things are so hard to judge from a datasheet since there’s soft details like tactile feel, surface finish, etc. And of course, there’s also the idea that you can have an idea in the morning, pick up all the parts, and have a complete project by night :)

  11. The big value of Akihabara isn’t that they have the biggest supply of components and whatnot, but that you can come across all sorts of obscure stuff, and that you can play with it in person. If you know exactly what you want, it’s far easier (and often cheaper) to use Digikey or whatever.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that most of the stores are _tiny_, and what you see is what you get – they don’t have boxes of other stuff in a back room somewhere.

    @R: Den-Den Town/Nipponbashi is the Osaka parallel of Akihabara; it doesn’t have quite as much in the way of electrical supplies as Akiba, however. (It does have about as many comic stores, though.)

  12. I was there last year :)

    The point is as long as you can’t read Japanese you might be doomed. There are hundreds of small shops hidden somewhere. If you walk simply down the main streets you might just get the impression of a place with overpriced computer shops. These shops with all there lights and ads are mostly tourist traps.
    If you are a baka gaijin (stupid foreigner) and you like to visit the good places …. find some Japanese buddy to guide you. As said already many shops are very small, located in the upper floors without much or any signs from outside.
    If you enter a shop with a pushy salesman leave it, it is not worse to buy there and mostly they will fool you.

    Tokio has some hackerspaces…. maybe from there websites you can create contact to find a local guide. Guess they highly welcome Gaijin hackers around the world.

  13. In Paris, France there is Montgallet: a similar area with ~50 computer/electronics shops.

    I have been to both Montgallet and Akihabara, and damn I wish there was something similar in Los Angeles for when I need something *right in the moment*.

  14. @R Osaka has a looooong street(s) that is called “Den den town” and Kyoto has something similar to the Osakas one but I just cant remember the name.

    But Akihabara is just The Akihabara.

  15. Hehe I was *JUST* there. Since the yen to dollar is so shitty, there aren’t really too many amazing deals but it’s still really nice to just hop on JR line and grab the part you need for a project instead of waiting on Mouser. Super fun to wonder around though.

  16. @ cantido

    > I think Akihabara is just a little bit special.

    I agree. Maybe I should have been clearer, I was simply trying to say that my impression of going around Akihabara was that there appeared to be more activity in hobby electronics and in a wider age group than is the case here in Australia.

  17. I live in Japan (I am not Japanese) and I work really close to Akihabara. Akihabara is stretched over 10×10 blocks, full of shops of anything you can think off. The junk shops are really cool for people like us.

    I can pass by anytime and film/picture whatever you want and send it directly to you to post. Buying is not advisable now, since 1 USD is barely 85 yen when typically is 110 yen; so things here are quite expensive for foreigners now.

  18. Oh how I would live to spend just a couple of hours in there. It would be absolutely amazing!!! One day I will go to japan and that will be the very first stop, forget lame tourist attractions, that place is THE tourist attraction for hardware geeks like me.

  19. I’ve traveled a bit and in my experience nothing matches Akihabura…

    Some that came close or were surprising include Silicon Valley( too spread out), Chennai(surprise), Mumbai(scam central), Barcelona(surprise), Bangkok(just a few big stores), Kuala Lumpur ( great! ), Hong Kong (used to be much better), Singapore(OK), Beijing( hugely disappointing – 100’s of stores with the same distributor!?!? ), Moscow(not so great), Warsaw (Ok but it looks like I missed the weekend market), Berlin(expected better – missed it?), Hannover (just got to Cebit – no time to wander otherwise) etc etc… maybe I’ve missed some.. I wasn’t in geek mode for all my travels (but almost).

    I think I want to move to Tokyo! Canada/USA sucks for hobby tech markets.

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