[Ian] Shops Akihabara

Hackaday alum and Dangerous Prototypes founder [Ian Lesnet] is in Japan and he’s been spending a lot of time at Akihabara Electric Town. For those that don’t recognize the name, this is an electronic components extravaganza with buildings packed full of small shops each specializing in different merchandise. For instance, we love this picture of a shop that carries every kind of protoboard, breakout board, and copper clad sheet imaginable. The stall next door might have nothing but LEDs, or be full of cords for every purpose.

We’ve been following [Ian’s] regular tweets about the trip. Luckily, he just posted a roundup of the Akihabara posts. Surprisingly, he restrained himself to purchasing just a few items. Part of this is a limit on the amount of stuff he can get back to the States with him. The other reason is that the prices are not necessarily less than you’d find in a catalog. He mentions that the nice thing is you can see the parts before buying them. This is useful for sizing knobs, transformers, cases, etc.

The most exciting thing in his bag is a half-dozen nixie-like VFD tubes for just $12. How much would you give to have this shopping attraction down the street from you?

If you’re interested in a video tour of Akihabara check out this one from the Tokyo Hackerspace.

[via @dangerousproto]

32 thoughts on “[Ian] Shops Akihabara

  1. I’ve always made fun of shop-o-holics and the TV channels dedicated to selling stuff. I’m afraid a place like this would turn me into a hypocrite of the highest order while simultaneously melting down my credit card. What fun!

    1. Totally with you on that, if I was ever given the opportunity to visit that place I’d either end up dragging away suitcases crammed full of components or crying because I ran out of money :)

      My local town has approximately bugger all in terms of electronic components for sale so at least I have the ability to shop online for the bits I want, even if it takes from 2 days to 6 weeks to arrive (depending on urgency/budget).

  2. Hmm, don’t know how people can still get excited about Akihabara. It was great at the beginning of the 1990s. That was the time when you stepped out of the station and fell into the first component or walkman displays (depending on the exit). But already during the 90s computers took over and now there are mostly boring computer and some anime-related shops.

    Electronic components are still there, but greatly reduced in number, and of all the amateur radio shops only three are still alive, but much smaller now. Going to Akihabara these days is mostly disappointing…

    1. Akihabara comes up on Hackaday at least once a year I guess and it brings out all the “Man, I wish I lived in Japan” etc people.. There’s tons of stuff there but it’s nothing amazing IMHO. For someone on holiday being able to go down to Akizuki Denshi and get a H8 or SuperH dev kit (or one of the cool super Z80 kits) is probably cool because you can’t find cheap ones outside of Japan.. but I live a few hours from Tokyo and I can get hold of most of the stuff I could ever want without having to go to Akihabara. The big shops like marutsu parts sell online.. AkizukiDenshi sells online, for random old stuff yahoo auctions is pretty good.. And I don’t have to put up with the maids (there are some really ugly foreign ones recently too :/) and other shit.

  3. Here in Houston we have Electronic Parts Outlet or EPO. Been here for decades and now there is Fry’s who sells allot of components too but EPO is a great place to browse for deals. Radio Shack? OK now if you want a phone…. I miss the Allied and Lafayette stores.

    1. Yes, EPO rocks! When I lived in Houston I was contracted replace Line Extender amplifiers on the telephone poles with higher bandwidth amplifiers for the local cable company. They didn’t want the lower bandwidth amplifiers back that had broken(heavy aluminum)casings(broken from falling to the ground after being cut out), so me and my friend pulled the amplifier modules from the casings, and sold the aluminum casings for weight to the metal recycling guys, and then sold the amplifier modules to EPO for about $4.00 each. They probably still have some of those amplifier modules for sell, even though it has been 15 years, since we sold them about 200 of them….

  4. Hi there,

    I tried to post a comment twice on his website and just found that I end up giving him my generic email address and finding out that “COMMENTS ARE CLOSED”. I do wish that hackaday wouldn’t keep putting users in a nefarious shopping LOOP so near to Christmas…. :(

  5. I would really like to have a place like that in Denmark where i live. For some reason it can be very difficult to find seemingly simple electronic components locally. Recently i needed a serial enabled LCD display and couldn’t find them anywhere, only the parallel models. I had to order it from sparkfun.. Also the price of electronic components in Denmark seems high compared to prices elsewhere.

  6. Gosh. I have been staring at that picture for 30 seconds wondering how my childhood would have gone if stores like this had existed where I live. It’s mind-blowing to superimpose the typical store with stands full of pink notebooks with disney characters for girls, just to delete that image and find it’s stands full of boards. I can feel the awesomeness and the sadness of not having this close at the same time.

    dl7und: even if there are less now
    mime: your wages are the highest in the world also

  7. I heard there’s a similar market in Warsaw on the weekends. Anyone local to confirm? It’s just that Warsaw is sooo much more within reach for me than Tokyo (a weekend trip rather than halfway around the world)

    1. I live in Warsaw, so I can confirm :) We have two places like this: Warszawska Giełda Elektroniczna (Warsaw Electronics Market) [http://www.wge.com.pl/ http://g.co/maps/w87q4%5D. But at this one you’d rather find computer parts and only a few electronic shops. What you are looking for is Wolumen [http://www.wolumen.com.pl http://g.co/maps/9wrjr%5D. This place is open also from monday to friday, but most sellers come only at weekends and they sell right out of the car. I don’t see english version of official site, chceck it on google transalte: http://goo.gl/y6eZQ

    2. Wolumen

      typical stall, this one has all kinds of bulbs in it:
      :D looks like a vegetable market, doesnt it? :P

      Its an open air market, about 100 Tent shops + 30-40 permanent buildings. Everything from components (resistors, caps, transistors, transformers etc), thru scrap yard salvage, ending with new/fixed/refurbished products (home cinemas, audio systems, 1000W band speakers).
      If it has electronics inside you can get it there, or parts to fix it.

  8. I made a point of stopping by during a family vacation in ’01. Unfortunately, given our schedule, I could manage only a perfunctory overview, and thus spent most of my time in a multi-floor apple specialist.

  9. I wish they had a district like this in every state. I prefer buying local-ish rather than online…but it’s nearly impossible to find components locally. I would pay inflated radio shack prices just for the instant gratification.

  10. HuaXiangBei market in ShenZhen is awesome, too. Far more variety in terms of components, materials, suppliers and factory reps than I remember at Akihabara, but that was many years ago.

  11. that reminds me so much of the shopping buildings in Korea. I must have spent days in those Seoul. There is nothing like a 20 story building filled with electronics gear (and a favorable exchange rate) to make you blow a TON of money.

  12. Akihabara is a total mess… dozen of micro shops. some selling only small connectors, some selling only medium connectors… and so on, best part, usually the sellers have no fracking clues of the spec of the stuff they are selling beside what you can visually notice by yourself. Everytime I go it’s the same letdown… expensive letdown… I now do all my electronic shopping on the bay from hong kong sellers… You buy leds by the bucket instead of the unit… and usually the bucket is cheaper…

    1. Even if you buy a single unit from Akizuki they give you a printed copy of the datasheet.. I have a pretty nice folder of datasheets built up from orders.. and if you get something like a H8 dev kit you will get getting started instructions too. So they do know the specs of the stuff they are selling. If you go to the piles of “junk” (In Japan untested, unreturnable, usually second hand goods are called “junk”) shops then it’s up to you to know what you are buying.

      I will agree with you that Akihabara is a bit of a mess.. but buying parts from HK or China is also a bit of a mess.. For example if I order some generic electrolytic caps from Aki or Marutsu I will get some decent Rubycon or similar parts. Ordering the same parts from HK or China via ebay means you don’t know what you are getting basically. It could be utter crap.

      Funnily enough, I was in the US recently on business.. and it was so much easier to get hobby quantities of certain parts there. I.e. I could jump on ebay and buy a part tray of some Xilinx CPLDs and by putting in a best offer I got 6 parts for the price of a single part from China on ebay.. and I didn’t have to worry too much about getting fakes. I bought a ton of part reels and trays over in the US and brought them back to Japan.. So people in the US wishing they had an Akihabara near them need to try harder I guess.

      1. Just discover akizuki thanks to your post their web is japango only though… I have to try their brick and mortar shop next time i go uptown to see them big city lights…

        for the clueless shops it’s more the shoddy shacks around the station, dozens of them in fire hazard building beggig to be destroyed…

    2. You are going to the wrong places or not talking to the right people. I have been given so much patient help in the past before I knew much about components. There are guys in radio city and other places that really know their stuff and have really good prices. Plus you can rely on their parts and if your project doesn’t work you will know it is not so likely to be a dodgy part.

  13. If you are ever in Osaka, they have a similar district called “Den Den Town” (literally “electric town). I actually prefer Den Den Town, as it is spans several streets and has a wider variety of vendors (some great amateur radio venders, eg)

  14. I love Akiharaba and when I get a free day I love to visit that place.
    Like Ian said in the article post, stuff in Akihabara is not really that cheap, but it is awesome to waste hours in that place looking around and either getting ideas or sizing up parts before you order them.
    And after a hard day exploring you can relax in one of the many maid cafes there now (if that is your cup of tea!)

  15. Paid Akiharaba a visit in 1983. It was pretty awesome. Was on my way to Korea on leave, but I bought a few things. Still have a cool desk magnifier I bought in Japan. Even Angeles City (outside Clark Air base) had a decent electronics shop called “Liberty Electronics”. It put any Radio Shack to shame.

  16. I don’t care to live in japan, since i’m living in beijing china, and there is a store just like this down the street (da zhong electronics plaza), or well, stores spread over 3-4 mall like buildings with one having over 4 floors just filled with components. No japanese maid cafe’s though unless you want to walk for a while.

  17. Too bad that we have so many “Please buy from China through eBay” spammers on this thread. Why it is fun to shop for these stuff in Akiba is:

    1. some shops sell surprisingly limited product categories, and yet do very good business with regular customers from small businesses.
    2. If you are a beginner, there are shops like Akitsuki where you can get lots of support.
    3. There is a bit of fun to getting lost among the small parts-shops that line up small streets.

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