Akihabara Tour Sunday, March 17
by Sigi Rindler
Hi guys, here is a brief report from the TPC's recent Akihabara field trip. This was a very special day with circumstances that nobody had experienced who has joined me before.... It was raining!
And that's the reason why only four guys showed up. They were our honorable treasurer, Anthony Whitman, Akihabara Groupie Joseph Nortey from Ghana, Gabriel from Argentina, and a guy from the States whose name has slipped my mind. Let's call him Joe to avoid a floating ghost during the rest of the story, OK?
At exactly 11:00 am we were set to leave the station, but I granted latecomers another generous 30 second grace period. Nobody arrived (Jose Caldeira, our man from Rio, Todd Boyle , and some others had announced their participation, but must have fallen victim to the rain or their badly tuned wrist watches)... so we marched away.
First stop was the Laox Duty Free shop 30 meters from the station since one of the guys was talking about buying some presents with Japanese motifs. At floor level you can find everything which you have ever seen and which you haven't. Tea and sake cups with sumo images, chopsticks with geisha pictures, ashtrays and coasters with Japanese wood block prints, etc. They also have at least 20 different T-shirts with Japanese images on them. From there we went straight to Step (PC Outlet) beyond Manseibashi Bridge.
There was nothing particularly exciting about except the HP LaserJet 5L which Gabriel wanted to buy. It was about ¥55,000.
I didn't know that Step has it's own showroom since the letters on the sign outside the door were only 10 inch high!<g>
Tony showed us the entrance just beside of Step's entrance. Well, you'll need to go inside the garage's drive-in and walk downstairs. Joe was missing, but was found inside Step writing down the prices of all models they had on display...
Well, back to the basement showroom together with Joe: There you can see one of the neatest displays of electronic parts (everything clean). The prices are not exactly rock-bottom, but you can jot down the parts you want, tell them, then get your custom-made machine 3 hours later! I was looking for another WD IDE 1.6GB hard drive. ¥39,000 wasn't what I wanted since A-Master advertised them for ¥33,000. I jotted the prices of their CPUs down, which I found cheap, but later on I discovered a shop that beat any shop between the North and South Pole!
Out of the shop into the rain. A short stop at JC-World yielded nothing new except overly excited young salesmen who shouted *irrashaimasseeee*. Out of it and to the next store.
Our American fellow was missing again! Finally we found him still at JC-World jotting down prices...
After 50 meters there was this Tsukumo #11 shop where the Japan Times wrote about their dedicated and spacious "Internet Floor" with several computers to lay hands on. The girl working at the street level didn't have a clue, but sent us in the wrong direction. Finally we took the elevator (for midgets) up to the 5th floor. Tony, Joseph, and I were ready to go, when a really pocket sized and slim Japanese wanted to come with us. The warning buzzer sounded off, and he had to remove his 40 or something kilograms ....
5th floor Internet section: What a joke. There were three computers with one working model and an entirely unattractive browser on it. The shop must have bribed the Japan Times reporter, methinks. Forget this shop in the near future!
Next stop was the "2nd hand street" just before the Laox Computer Kan. Not so many shops out in the street because of the rain. The only highlight was the small T-Zone outlet at the end of the road. If you are not too fussy about speed, what about a 2X 7-disc CD-ROM changer for ¥13,000 from Nakamichi? This one requires SCSI. Their hard disks are more expensive, but the display is great for advanced learners of English. The shop carries special "Quantam" and "Coneer" hard drives. I guess that this uniqueness justifies the higher prices...<g> Our American friend got lost a couple of times, but we were always able to track him down. Next time I'll make these guys smoke Indonesian clove cigarettes to sniff them out easily. Ken Cotton couldn't sneak out last time... remember?<g>
There was this Epson girl outside a shop who mistook Gabriel as Robert de Niro and me presumably his manager. She insisted on taking a group photo of us with her digital camera, but finally there was only space for the two celebrities, however, Tony is clearly visible in the background. Well, since Joseph made the girl entirely nervous, it took her awhile to remember the right steps to scan the image into the photo processing software. Finally we got two prints done on a new Epson color printer. The print costs ¥37. A normal instant camera yields sharper images and prints are cheaper, but the snapshots look pretty neat on the computer screen.
I forgot, some minutes before we bumped into Todd Boyle who was bitterly complaining that we were not at the station at 11:00.... He was on his way home with a new tower case in his hands. What the guy really and dearly needs is a new wrist watch, methinks!<g>
A short walk around the block got us to Laox Computer Kan. The foreign book and magazine section has now partly been moved within the same floor. It was 5 to 1 pm... time for lunch at the 1st floor restaurant of Akihabara's Department Store (belongs apparently to the COSMOS group, whose chairman is presently being indicted of skimming many billions of Yen). Anyway, they didn't close down yet and we got what we had ordered. Joe promised to join us a bit later since he had to "check things out," he said. Well, he didn't arrive until we headed down the staircase again. Tony had to leave, and our quartet walked up to T-Zone in the Minami denki building. Gabriel found his HP LaserJet L5 there for around ¥50,000 (cheaper than at Step).
In the 8th floor you can find cheaper computer models that aren't equipped with the newest Pentium chips. Check it out since there are always some goodies available. They had two brand-new 17-inch Gateway monitors for ¥39,800 in the shelf (no warranty).
Occasionally we had to spent time to run and search for Joe American who was eagerly comparing prices until he found his bargain (an AST 133 computer with 17-inch monitor for a little less than ¥300,000 I think). Boy, was I happy about this one! A sack full of fleas is easier keep together or at bay...<g>
Next step was a trip to Robin's Garage (the one in the 4th floor!)... When we stepped out of the elevator and opened the door, there was a showroom with all kinds of perfumes in the shelves! Robin isn't anymore. At least not in this hard to find place. I guess that it was one of the worst business locations. I have failed twice to find it initially. The shop had no clue about the merit of putting a visible signboard outside the building. Besides, who is assuming that "Robin's Garage" is located on the 4th floor at the back of a building?! Well, that's the daily life in Akihabara I guess.
After that we went to A-Master where I was supposed to buy my 1.6GB hard drive for ¥33,000, however, they were sold out. Out of A-Master and up to the DOS/V Paradise CD-ROM shop. There is hardly anything new since I was there a month ago. Bundled encyclopedias like Compton and Grolier are too expensive for ¥3,900. I bought mine in this shop for ¥1,500 a year ago. We walked down to the lower floor (CD porno shop). Joe asked whether the images feature the same dancing mosaics as the videos do. Somebody said: "Watch this TV..." What a great movie! 20% (the outer frame) was visible while the rest were lovely dancing mosaics. Several months ago the shop was selling descrambling devices for ¥20,000, but never connected them to the video to show how it works.
This sucks... Quickly out of the shop, but there was no go using the staircase. It was barricaded with metal bars for some reason. We needed to wait 5 minutes for the elevator to bring us down!
Somebody (preferably a Japanese) ought to get the police involved. Just imagine if a fire breaks out or an earthquake strikes! I observed the same problem in the building where the Maha Poshya shop (the one which Aum's Asahara owned) was located. They had stacked lots of boxes with monitors in the corner where the door was supposed to be. I didn't know that there was any door in the beginning... Anyway, we got down safely.
Joe and Gabriel wanted to buy their gadgets, so we ended our trip and said good bye. I carried on with Joseph Nortey who needed some ZIP floppies. Two-Top had the cheapest ones for ¥1,750. Other shops wanted between ¥1,900 and ¥2,680.
Then we walked up the long staircase to "Za Graceful" where I decided to buy my 1.6GB WD (Caviar) hard drive. ¥30,680 can't be beat. This is cheaper than most places which advertise in the Computer Shopper! The shop has the cheapest memory in town also. BTW, this shop is in the same street as the DOS/V Paradise computer showroom (on the same side of the street).
Here are some prices which they offered on this particular day:
Whole computer systems (166Mhz, 32MB, 512K SRAM, 1.6GB) are ¥30,000 less than exactly the same configuration (and parts) at DOS/V Paradise.
Here I split up with Joseph and popped into a another shop where I saw the HP LaserJet L5 for ¥44,500. Gabriel might have already bought his for ¥5,000 more at T-Zone... When I headed back to the station, Gabriel bumped into me again. He didn't buy yet, so I gave him the name card of the shop which I had secured for "just in case". I have no follow up, but I really think that he went for this one.
Then I saw this hawker who looks like a homeless person and usually "opens" his shop in front of a closed store shutter. There were 3 big cardboard boxes with various game cartridges for the Sega Megadrive game computer for ¥100 each, many CD-ROMs and other software. I watched two American tourists browsing through the software who held the only copy of Mad Dog McCree and Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp in their hands. The huge sticker on the shrink-wrap said DOS/V....
Since the poor guys were at a total loss, nice as I am, I immediately helped out by saying that this meant compatibility with the Japanese operating system (which is actually true). The guys thanked me for the good advice, put the software packages back into the box and left. 5 seconds later I grabbed both, paid ¥500 each, and went straight to the station and home to go for the kill on my plain DOS/Windows system...<BG>
Watch the Algorithmica Japonica for Sigi's next Akihabara Tour!
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