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Akihabara Tour - Sunday, January 21, 1996

by Sigi Rindler


This time it was just a small group of 8, but that's better for me since this crowd is better to handle than a pile of wild ants... Remember the first Aki tour last year where half of the crowd got lost within 15 minutes after lunch (because I refused to carry a big flag, and Steve Bellamy did his very best to drive all women crazy)!

There was Hubert, the French NHK talento, Eric, another Frenchman, Todd Boyle (yes, that Todd!), Joseph Nortey rushing over from faraway Ghana, "high-tech VIP" Ken Cotton with the dictaphone in his left hand and his Handy in the other, while holding his smelling clover cigarette between his lips. Initially I thought that my favorite curry shop was on fire.... Then there was Masako, the mascot of this colorful group, dressed up for hurdling competitions with our French fellows.

Well, I was there too, since I was supposed lead the group. I even overheard a remark when someone called me "Mein Führer".... Ahem... but that's the German word for leader, which I was supposed to be for a couple of hours.

OK, let's go!

You know the rule by now, don’t you? Go straight down to STEP first! Pass the Mansei Bridge, the public toilet on the left, the huge Mansei restaurant building. Right after, there was a guy sleeping on a real futon and covered by a couple of blankets just beside the sidewalk. A couple of steps further you'll see the STEP Mac shop. I already explained about how to go to the PC outlet at the other side of the road.

The very cheap Compaq goodies had gone, but the shop is well stocked with Sony monitors and, for the first time, with Gateway computers. The HP ScanJet was ¥88,800 (of course, the Japanese version without the latest Omnipage Pro OCR that US-made HP scanners feature). Ken Cotton noted that this one was cheap since he checked the prices before.

Heading back over Mansei Bridge (no futons on the sidewalk at this side). It's 11:30 and too early to visit LASER 5, the CD-ROM shop at the dead end of Akihabara that does not open before 12:00. Instead we ventured down to the side-street just before the large Laox Computer store and turned left.

There is TRISAL in one of the upper floors, but pamphlets can be obtained by everyone at street level. The steep staircases are very narrow and limit the clientele to slim guys like.... Well, sumotori types snub these shops!

There are also many second hand parts shops in this street. Take your time and walk up and down narrow staircases. You might find great deals. A bit further up the road on the right is the Sofmap Used Part Shop (not the one for NEC and EPSON stuff located before this one). There you find cheap Intel-Ethernet cards, etc. It was too crowded, so I didn't really check. One thing that caught my attention were several "Fujitsu Towns" machines with CD-ROM drives for ¥10,000 to ¥15,000....

They looked almost new, and I know that they were sold for ¥300,000 to ¥400,000 some years ago. Nowadays you don't necessarily buy a game for your computer, because a computer for your game might be the better deal!

Really, I saw Toshiba laptops (plasma screen) for as little as ¥2,000! Slow by nowadays standards but for the price of eight or nine packs of cigarettes! They cost between ¥300,000 and ¥500,000 years ago and were state-of-the-art gadgets.

BTW, T-Zone has an outlet for CPUs, chips, monitors, modems, etc., at the end (left side) on this street. Not exactly the cheapest store, but it's a pretty safe place compared to other make-shift stores that come and go.

From there we went to LASER 5. It's the worst location I could imagine for any *denki* shop in this city, but they must be making the money to pay the rent. There is a lot of stuff for many, but I never got the kick out of it.

Back to the heart of Akihabara via some different streets under the Sobu railway overpass. Again we saw plenty of newly arrived monitors up to 21" for ¥3,000 each. I guess, the guys will show you whether they work before buying.

Suddenly I realized that 3 guys in the group got lost, our Ken Cotton and Todd Boyle among them. But thanks to Ken's clover cigarettes, I could easily sniff them out in no time...

Almost 13:00... time for lunch at the announced restaurant at Akihabara's DEPARTMENT STORE, a term that was probably justified shortly after WWII! On the way we passed by the "good man" discount store. The Chinese seaweed soap (promising weight loss) being sold for ¥1,980 a bar last summer was now ¥100! A couple of us guys stocked up on soap bars since they make great and expensive-looking presents for our loved ones at home!

We also got these ¥291 classical CDs with DDD imprinted. I can't say about my fellows (Ken Cotton might or might not complain later), but DON'T buy the "Vienna Waltz, Johann Strauss 1&2"! This recording is not the expected DDD sound quality but SMS (speaker-microphone-speaker sound transfer). Well, that's (Akihabara) life: you can't have it all.

13:00! Time for lunch. Todd ordered spaghetti, didn't like it, and told Masako about this fact 3 seconds after her order of the same lunch set. Otherwise we had an informal lunch and a great time with plenty of laughter and many eyes staring at us from neighboring tables.

13:40... we left the restaurant and noticed the waiter's happy face for the first time. Everybody was having ice cream downstairs until one reported Masako missing. When I was about to appoint Todd to check the ladies' room for her, she suddenly appeared.

Went without authorization to the "100 Yen Shop" on the first floor. After a stern warning we went for a short stint to Sofmap's Chicago store to check for cheap English computer magazines. No luck, all had already gone. Todd suggested to visit Shibuya's "Mega Tower" store where they are plentiful and cheap.

After that we spent 10 minutes at the Laox Computer store (foreign book section). They have almost anything you'd need, but their prices are really royal! Magazines and certain books can be had for half price elsewhere... if they are available.

From Laox we crossed the wide street, went toward Mitsubishi Bank, but turned left just before the bank. After 1 minute you'll see ATZTEC. They sell a variety of computers, computer cases, cards, modems, etc. It's not a "must see" shop, but they do have discounted goodies at times.

From the shop window we saw some gaijin dancing in a frenzy! A closer look at the performer revealed that it was one of our guys. Ken Cotton had spotted the cheapest HP ScanJet 4c in town!!! (¥84,000) I forgot the name of the shop, but it's the shop which is located at exactly the opposite side of ATZTEC, filled with boxes up to the ceiling.

Next: DOS/V Paradise. The first thing that catches your attention is that the very familiar Gateway boxes outside the shop had been replaced by Micron boxes. Micron is a bit expensive, though. There isn't much difference to Dell or Compaq anymore, and Compaq will provide a 3 year warranty! No other computer manufacturer will do that here. This makes the Compaq Prolinea systems choice #1 over IBM Aptivas, which cost about the same. We didn't stay long since their prices are no good anymore compared to a year ago.

When we passed "Lahoru", the Indian curry shop, Hubert, our French buddy, must have caught the Lahoru virus! From this time he kept on speaking ethnic Indian-English. I think that everybody had more fun one this second leg of the tour than during the entire month. Todd displayed the first signs of impatience.

Around the corner was ATTLA (former Spunky). Less attractive than before, if I may say so. Out of the shop and down to the Chuo Dori, which was now closed to the traffic. That's one of Akihabara's highlights!

Ken Cotton started to pester us with a new gadget he had acquired somewhere before for ¥1,000; a tiny knife with a pin to clean his dirty fingernails. I told him that could get this one thrown in for free if I bought that fake Swiss army knife for ¥700 at a certain discount store...

Then we suffered our first victims of the tour. Ken and Todd had to leave. Next on the plan was A-Master (the previous corner-landmark, the chanting Aumies had gone). They have decent prices on their Pentium machines, and all kinds of other useful stuff. Go there and see yourself. Their reputation is still good. I'll buy my new 1.6GB hard disk (Western Digital) there since no one else sells it for ¥33,000! Warranty is one year as usual. Well, STEP sells it even for ¥200 less, but A-Master doesn't give you a hassle if you have to bring it back....

Next stop was DOS/V Paradise (5F) in the block of the old T-ZONE building. They still sell Gateway programmable keyboards for ¥3,000, while their main shop has them for ¥5,800!!! If you buy one, make sure about your keyboard jack at the back of your computer. This keyboard has a laptop plug. The adaptor costs another ¥500.

Back into the elevator and passing the "dirty CD-ROM shop" on the 6th floor since Masako was still with us.... Finally we arrived at our ast destination, the DOS/V Paradise CD-ROM shop (7F). They have (sometimes) a good selection and better prices than elsewhere. Goodies from software bundles and such. Sometimes they have MS Office (full version) for about ¥5,000!

Some of our guys must have sneaked out and went to the 6th floor, anyway, suddenly they were all back again with the distinct shopping bags from that shop! I bought "After Dark", the new screen saver for WIN95. My complaints about WIN95 software and other related stuff will be uploaded to the BBS in another message during the following days....

One important hint: Don't throw your receipts away before you have installed the software and you have made sure that everything really works!

Well, this wraps up our first Akihabara tour this year. Hope to have another one in the future. And thanks to everybody who joined in!


© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

February, 1996

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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