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Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities) November 29, 2011

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-JO

Orchard is Singapore’s version of Ginza.  It is the high end of shopping and a place where people go to be seen.  When someone is looking for high fashion items like the perfect Gucci bag, Orchard seems to be the place to go.  I only spent a few hours in Orchard and I actually arrived a little early.  I arrived in Orchard around 10:30, and most of the shops were still closed.  I ended up wasting a bit of my time just walking around looking for shops that were open.  It is very much like Ginza where things don’t really come alive until 11am, at best.  I went into Orchard not really expecting too much as I don’t normally shop for high end items, but I ended up enjoying the experience.

The main strip, Orchard Road, is where most of the shops are.  There really isn’t much else to it, but there are a few places to visit on either side of the main strip.  I found that if you go off the main strip, you can see a few cheaper shops compared to the luxury of Orchard.  The main strip itself is a plethora of shopping malls and department stores.  The anchor of Orchard has to be Tangs.  It is one of the oldest department stores in Orchard and a major retailer in Singapore.  When they opened, Orchard was little more than a small residential and cemetery area.  Once Tangs built their main shop, things started to change.  It eventually turned into the high end shopping district it is today.  The most common area is an area between Orchard Station and Dhoby Ghaut Station.  It is a short walk between the stations and fairly easy, even on a very hot day.  You can easily walk from mall to mall, department store to department store and only feel the heat a little.  My only surprise was to see the many Japanese department stores.  Unfortunately, some of them were just a pale comparison to their original counterparts in Japan, but there were many of them and the ones that spent money to be upscale were very much like their original counterparts.  Orchard is also well known for its cafes and restaurants.  Like any upscale shopping district, you need to have places for people to rest, relax, and eat.

When visiting Singapore for the F1 Grand Prix, there are many things you can’t do.  You can’t really experience the night life in Singapore.  You spend most of the night at the race itself and after the race you are pretty tired.  The Friday qualifying wasn’t too late but after walking around all day in the circuit, I just didn’t have any energy to keep going.  On Saturday, the qualifying didn’t end till 11pm or so, which made it difficult to go out afterwards.  By Sunday, I was just too tired from going everywhere possible.  There are several places I wish I could have gone if I had more time and more flexibility to travel around Singapore.  The first would be Sentosa Island.  To me, it looks like nothing more than a Singapore version of Disney World.  There are beaches, shopping malls, and other amusement attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore.  It looked like a nice, expensive, place to visit.  If I had more time, I would have spent a day just trying many things on the island.  The other regret I had was not being able to go on a night safari.  In Japan, a lot of Japanese people told me to go on a night safari, but since I was too busy with F1, there was no chance I could have gone on a safari.  It seems interesting but at the same time it wasn’t high enough on my list of things to do in Singapore.

One other regret is not getting out and around Singapore itself.  Singapore is well connected to Malaysia as well as Indonesia.  I wish I had a lot more time to visit one of the resort islands in the area, although travelling to Thailand might be a better idea due to the prices.  Singapore is a wonderful country and it is a place I wish to re-visit in the future.  There are many other places that I would love to visit but if the opportunity does arise, I will be heading to Singapore very quickly.  Unfortunately, a short visit without knowing any locals probably created a tourist bubble around me and influenced my own impressions of Singapore.  I wish I knew people who lived in Singapore to get a better idea as to how life really is, as I learned when I visited Hong Kong and Taiwan in the past.  Hopefully I can revisit soon and get a better understanding of the people and culture that is unique to Singapore.

Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities) is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

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Tokyo – Nihonbashi January 11, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Nihonbashi” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-xQ

Nihonbashi can easily be considered the centre of Japan.  It is the point where ALL roads are measured.  When approaching Tokyo along one of the many highways and expressways, they almost always measure distance to Nihonbashi.  This is in stark contrast to the way things are done in different prefectures and cities where the zero mark is based on the official government offices.  In fact, while most cities in Japan consider their major train stations to be the centre of the city, it’s rarely used as a distance marker.  Nihonbashi is one of the few exceptions.  The bridge, Nihonbashi, was built originally in 1603 and rebuilt in 1911.  The 1911 version is what you will see today if you do head to Nihonbashi.  It’s a beautiful looking bridge with various sculptures adorning the bridge.  It is still used heavily to this day, although it is no longer a major thoroughfare for cars.  When walking along the bridge, you will be surprised by the beauty and majestic image the bridge portrays, and the fact that they recently power washed it (end of 2010), really brings the original beauty out of the bridge.  It doesn’t look old at all, aside from the styling.  It has been well maintained over the years and hopefully, it will stay for a lot longer.

The only blight against this Nihonbashi is the fact that in the 1960s, the government erected a huge overhead expressway that flowed along the Nihonbashi River.  This highway barely passes overhead and the tall statues show it.  You can see some of the tall statues in the middle of Nihonbashi stretching up between the lanes of the expressway overhead.  It’s an interesting sight, and some people feel that this is what Nihonbashi should look like.  There is a tug-o-war for people who wish to see the expressway moved underground to restore the original beauty of Nihonbashi.  Others claim that the expressway can show Japan’s modernization and true history.  I agree that it shows Japan’s quick ambitions to rise and meet any challenges that it faces, but ugly is still ugly.  It would be far better if the bridge was free from overhead unsightliness.  Alas, this is the problem that Nihonbashi, the district, faces everyday as the world changes.

The Nihonbashi district is a somewhat unique area.  It is well known for being part of the business core in Tokyo.  The old business core used to be the skyscrapers in Shinjuku, and by all means, it’s still a business hub, but for finances, you are hard pressed to find a better area than Nihonbashi.  When combined, Nihonbashi, Otemachi, and Marunouchi make the financial core of Tokyo.  These three areas are easily accessible on foot and can be walked from end to end in about 30 minutes.  Nihonbashi is home to three financial institutions and the Bank of Japan.  While this doesn’t sound amazing, when you walk around Nihonbashi for the first time, you’ll be surprised at how small it truly is.  Many will say that Nihonbashi stretches out towards the Sumida River which would increase its size dramatically, but if you are being a purist, the area can easily be walked on foot within an hour.  It is within this small centre that you will find all of these institutions.

While most people will find the financial institutions to be very boring, myself included, there is a lot more to see and do within Nihonbashi itself.  Shopping is where Nihonbashi truly excels, like many areas of Japan.  If you are looking for traditional Japanese products, this is a good place to go.  You can find various traditional products such as Japanese paper, old hand carved toothpicks, and much more.  Nihonbashi isn’t considered one of Japan’s oldest neighborhoods for nothing.  They have a large array of old and new mixed together.  Many of the old shops have been demolished, but the original owners have re-opened in the newer buildings.  Others have also taken their places and you can find many good traditional Japanese sweets within the area.  I would highly recommend a visit to one of these shops if you can.  There are also department stores that specialize in the higher end goods, and for the older generations.  Mitsukoshi is the first department store in Nihonbashi, and their main building is considered an historical building.  I would recommend a visit just to soak up the atmosphere.  Takashimaya and Coredo are also located here and shouldn’t be missed.  If you are wondering what the difference is between Nihonbashi and Ginza, there isn’t much, but there are subtle differences.  Ginza tends to be a posh area with younger people with lots of money to spend.  Think of a new izakaya that is expensive and extremely popular.  Nihonbashi feels more alike a refined sake; one that has aged and matured over time.  It has a feeling of being in an exclusive club, and if you don’t belong, you might be left out.  While I doubt that the shops will make you feel like an outsider, the air of the area is special.

I did mention that Nihonbashi is a small area, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring the neighboring areas either.  For one, you should head west along the river.  If you head towards Ichikokubashi, you will see, on the south west corner a small marker next to the bridge at the entrance of a public park.  This is a very rare marker and an interesting history lesson for anyone.  The marker itself is a lost and found stone.  If you lose a child, or you find a child, you can post a note on either side of the stone and hope someone finds it.  For example, if I find Taro Suzuki, and I’m looking for his mother, Hana, I can write a description of him, and his name and put it on the found child side.  The opposite is also true.  From there, if his parents or caregiver found the note, they can move it to the reunion side which posts a meeting time and location for people.  It’s not always a happy story, but I’d like to think that more times than not, children are reunited with their parents.

Nihonbashi is an often overlooked and skipped area of Tokyo.  By all means, if you are only in Tokyo for a few days, it’s not a place I’d recommend a visit.  If you are in Tokyo for 2 weeks, and not venturing out to the outlying areas, I’d definitely recommend a visit to this area.  There are many things to see and do in a short time, and it’s a very short walk to get to the other various areas surrounding Nihonbashi.  It’s easy to walk over to Tokyo Station, and Akihabara is just a few stations away as well.  If you are considering a visit to either Nihonbashi or Ginza, I’d probably choose Ginza as it’s more famous and what most people want to see, however, Nihonbashi is a good substitute if you understand what you might be missing in Ginza.

Nihonbashi Information:

Nihonbashi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihonbashi

Nihonbashi (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3033.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Living in Shinjuku June 1, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Living in Shinjuku” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-qa

In September of 2005, I arrived in Tokyo for the second time in my life and for the first time, I would live in Japan.  For the next five and a half years, I would live in a tiny apartment in Shinjuku.  Technically, I lived in Shibuya, but in reality, I lived closer to Shinjuku and I would later realize that it was impossible for me to explain where I lived if I said Shibuya.  Shinjuku was the best word to use and explained my location perfectly.

As I said, my apartment was a tiny 23 square metre apartment.  My bedroom itself was a paltry 10 square meters or 107 square feet.  Yes, it’s tiny. It cost me about ¥100,000 a month and I lived on a busy major arterial road.  Did I mention that I also lived with my girlfriend?  It was a cramped place that really wasn’t suitable for two people.  It was barely enough space for one, but it was home.  The apartment wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be just now.  While it was tiny, and it was expensive, the price of the apartment was mainly due to the location.  I was fortunate to live only 30 minutes away from Shinjuku, and that’s on foot.  I could easily find a great restaurant and getting out of town was easy.  Every weekend, I would walk into Shinjuku and enjoy the various shops.  It was busy, but not terribly so.  Over the five years, I got to know Shinjuku very intimately.  I know every corner and every path around the station.  Shinjuku Station is one of the most complex stations in the world, but for me, it is a simple place that takes but a second to get around.   If things did get too noisy, it wasn’t too hard for me to find a small quiet oasis just a month away.

The cost of living is not as high as you would expect.  Everyone says that living in Tokyo is very expensive.   For the first while, I would have said that’s true, but if you are smart and know where to go, you can live relatively cheaply.  The other advantage for me was that I lived in a tiny apartment.  It may be tiny, but the cost for utilities was equally tiny.  I was also very fortunate in that the quality of restaurants were very high.  You generally get what you pay for.  If I wanted to splurge and eat something nice, I could easily go to Shinjuku, or somewhere in my area to find something wonderful and romantic.  If I needed something dirt cheap, that was also available.  There were also a few grocery stores where you can get food at a very reasonable price.  Surprisingly, for such a central location, there were lots of options, but only a few that were worth a visit.  Thankfully, I lived outside the Yamanote line, which meant I had more choices.  Those who live within the Yamanote line are saddled with a cost of living that’s MUCH higher.  I was also fortunate that my favourite grocery store wasn’t such a major chain.  Major chains in Japan tend to have somewhat higher prices for some strange reason.  If you ever do decide to live in Japan, walking around the neighbourhood for at least a radius of 2km is necessary to find all of the cheapest places you need.

The biggest problem for me and my apartment was the noise.  My balcony was adjacent to a major street. There were cars on the street at all hours of the day.  Ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and even gas vans would blast be my apartment at all hours with sirens blaring.  In Tokyo, the gas company has the same status at times as an emergency vehicle.  I believe this is mostly to prevent major explosions from a pipeline, especially with buildings packed so closely together.   In the beginning, it was very cool to be able to hear all of the strange sirens of Japanese emergency vehicles, but after a year, it did get annoying.  By far, the most annoying sounds were the loud scooters, bosozoku bikes, and decotora.  Bosozoku are a type of teenage motorcycle gang, which is like recruitment to the Yakuza, but that’s not always the case.  They have very distinct bikes with no mufflers.  Their trademark is to ride around and make as much noise as possible.  While coasting to a stop, they will rev their engines as loud as possible, even though it does nothing but hurt the engine.  The decotora are trucks that have paintings on the side and hundreds of flashing lights.  Think epilepsy inducing strobes.  These trucks are usually okay, but at times, they add noise makers that “pop” as they use the engine brake.  It was the loudest engine noise you could ever think of.  I did get used to the noise, but it didn’t help me to get a good night sleep either.

While the street was a pain due to the noise, it was also a blessing.  I had one of the best views of Shinjuku.  I could look out everyday and see the Tokyo Metropolitan Buildings.  Each night, the buildings would be lit up and the colours would change every so often.  It would sometimes change due to a specific event, such as women’s day or earth day.  It was very nice.  I would also be able to see the changing skyline as new buildings would be built.  During a few storms, I had the privilege to see lightning and rain falling down as if God was angry at the world.  It was an amazing site, and living somewhat high above the street gave me a great view of things.  I even had a view of a major highway construction project that has lasted well over my 5 years at this apartment.  When I moved in, they were in the process of building an underground highway.  When I left, they completed the highway, but they were still doing the arduous process of fixing the roadway itself.   They were placing all of the overhead wires underground and beautifying the entire street.  Alas, I believe it would take another 2 to 5 years to complete everything.  I guess I may never see the final product.

One of the toughest things to get used to was the lack of greenery.  While the area was super convenient, it was also lacking trees and shrubs.  There were several parks in the area, but none of them were within a short walk.  The definition of a park is very different in Tokyo.  A park can be nothing but gravel paved into a square which is only good enough for a game of catch or other simple small area sports.  There were no chances to play touch football or even futsal.  It took a couple years before I was used to this.  It was also impossible to get out of town easily by car or on foot.  The west side of Tokyo is a large metropolis.  The north and west sides are much easier to get into the countryside.  This was part of the reason I sold my motorcycle last year.  The only consolation prize was that it was extremely easy for me to hop onto a major train line, or even get to the Shinkansen to get out of town, but that usually left me in a similar looking area, a major city.

All in all, living in Shinjuku is great.  I loved it and I will definitely miss it.  I wish I could continue living there, forever, but the cost and size was too much.  I found a great place on the other side of town, and now I get to start over again.  I’ll be learning more and more about the east side.  Over the next year or so, expect more information about eastern Tokyo.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric) April 27, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-nb

Akihabara is an area that is being transformed from a small centre with hundreds of small or tiny shops into a place that has tall buildings with large corporations controlling the area.  While it is true that things are changing, you can still see some of the craziness and the strangeness of this area if you know where to look.

For those wanting to see anime, anime figures, manga, and toys, heading to the northern area, near Suehirocho Station is your best bet.  There are several shops in the area that sell these goods.  There are also several located throughout the Akihabara area.  The most famous style of shop is the “glass” shop.  This shop can range in size.  It can be as small as a single room, to one occupying an entire building.  When you enter the shop, you will be met with various glass boxes.  Inside each box, there are various figures on display.  You can buy anything that is located within theses boxes, unless they are for display only.  The key is to find out which box the stuff you want is in, and ask one of the staff to help you.  The interesting part of this is that while you might think of this as a stand alone shop, it isn’t.  Each glass box is usually a different shop.  Many people will rent out one of the boxes to either display their goods, or to sell their goods.  It can range from internet companies needing a physical location for some of their items, to regular people wanting to make a few bucks with the stuff they have collected over the years.  It is a very different concept to the traditional shop that is common in almost every other area of the world.

Another thing to look for in Akihabara is the vending machines.  Due to the nature of the area, vending machines are very prevalent.  In every corner, on every street, you will be able to find a vending machine.  While this is also true of most areas of Tokyo, it is special in Akihabara.  They specialize in unique vending machines.  The standard machines that sell drinks of all types are, of course, common, but they also have machines that sell food.  You can buy hot noodles in a can.  These can be very popular, and it even comes with its own plastic fork.  You could also purchase Oden, which is various vegetables in a broth.  I would liken it to a stew, but it’s very different in taste.  Oden is typically found in convenience stores, but there are restaurants that specialize in it as well.  Meat is not typically found, aside from sausages.  While less common, spaghetti can be found, and it is very possible to find anime drinks.  These tend to be your average drink, but with an anime character on the cover.  Do be aware that prices can be jacked up, depending on where you are and what you buy.

Maids are an Akihabara specialty.  When you exit the station on the east side, and all along Chuo-dori, you are more than likely to run into several maids, especially on the weekend.  If you venture to the east side of Chuo-dori, you will find a lot of different maids looking to take you to their shop.  This is a relatively recent trend that has changed since I first visited.  When I first came, maid cafes were starting to become very popular.  You would see various Japanese women, sometimes European as well, dressed in a French style maid outfit.  They would almost cry to get you into their café.  It was all part of their act.  Today, you can find the strangest fetishes regarding maids.  The typical maid café charges a sitting fee on top of a mandatory drink.  One drink is usually good for about 1 hour.  This may change depending on the café.  You are then treated to a dose of acting from all of the maids in the café.  They tend to talk to you as if you are their master, at all times.  They act very cutesy and they play games with you.  Sometimes, there is a stage where they will play games with the entire café.  If you want to have a picture with one of the maids, or play a private game at your table, you will have to pay extra.  You can even buy one of the maid outfits if you really wanted to.  The man target for this is the men, not the women.  Today, they have added a plethora of different theme cafes.  This can range from a maid café where men dress as maids, but it’s relatively the same thing.  You can also see cafes where the girls are dressed more like a school girl, or even a moody school girl that will treat you like dirt, but cry and apologize when you leave.  I have seen various maid style cafes on TV, but I have never personally been to one.  I have seen their prices and can’t imagine entering one based on the prices.  If you really want to check it out, go ahead, but be sure you know how much it costs.  It could be as much as 4000 Yen for just one hour.  The safest place to visit a maid café might be on top of Don Quijote.

When I first came to Japan, Akihabara was only half as busy, but twice as strange.  In the last few years, the Mayor of Taito-ku, the name of the district Akihabara lies in, decided to clamp down on the strange people.  Several new buildings have popped up to act as an IT hub for Tokyo, and the police have done everything in their power to stop any performance that is done on the street.  While there is a good reason for this, they have decided that Akihabara’s original character of craziness has to go, and that it’s better to be a boring town like every other district of Tokyo.  On the weekends, you might be able to see a couple of “crazy” performers.  They tend to be men, and they tend to dress up as female anime characters.  Nowadays, they probably just walk around.  If they stop, the police will probably talk to them.  If they play loud music, the police will move them along.  If they dance to the music, the police will arrest them.  While this may seem strange and a little heavy handed, there is a main reason to this.  In the last couple years, some girls began to dress as maids, or other characters with a very short skirt; stand on a railing, and let people take pictures of them.  In essence, they let dirty men take photos up their skirts.  Thankfully, this has pretty much stopped, but the days when a tourist could walk along Chuo-dori, see someone dancing, take pictures, and say Tokyo is strange is long gone.  If you came to Akihabara looking for cheap electronics and hundreds of little shops, you will be disappointed.  If you came looking for a cool subculture, you will find something, but probably not exactly what you were looking for.  Either way, I still recommend visiting Akihabara.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Civilized and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized) April 20, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:   Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-n9

Akihabara Electric Town is a well known tourist spot in Tokyo.  Its claim to fame would have to be the electronics shops, comic book shops, and video game shops.  The area is best understood when you look at the station itself.  There are two major train lines that form a cross.  This is the starting point for almost every visitor to Akihabara.  Looking at the map, you can see that most of the shops are located to the north-west of the station.  The south-west corner is still a good place to visit, and the east has recently grown in popularity.  The main street, Chuo-dori, is sometimes closed to allow people to walk freely, and to reduce crowding, but due to an attack that killed several people, this may not be happening anymore.  Thankfully, this area is still relatively safe.  There is no need to really worry about getting injured or having your money stolen, but as with any place in the world, just be careful.

The east side of the station has only one point of interest, Yodobashi Camera.  This is a large electronics retailer that opened in 2005.  It is their largest single building shop with 7 floors of electronics goodness.  There is also a restaurant floor and a golf centre with its own driving range on top of the main electronics floors.  It is very easy to spend a full day in this shop, hence the caveat to be aware of time.  The main floor comprises mostly of mobile goods, such as mobile phones and netbooks.  For most people, heading up is your best bet.  If there is anything you ever wanted, this is the place to go.  They can do duty free for many items, but be aware, that as with most shops, you usually have to spend over 10,000 Yen in order to get a reduction in taxes.  People must also be aware that almost all products sold will be geared towards Japanese people.  Finding goods with English menus will be difficult, if not impossible for many items.  Warranties are also limited to Japan, but this shouldn’t discourage you from purchasing something.  You can always find good things here.  For those looking for a great deal on a new camera, or PC parts, you may be in for a sad surprise.  Prices are not cheaper here.  Yodobashi is a major electronics retailer, so they do not always provide the cheapest prices, and you can always visit one of the other branches or even the other shops to get a comparable price.

On the west side of the station, you will find the true heart of Akihabara.  This is where the original Electric Town was located.  Unfortunately, due to the arrival of Yodobashi Camera, things have changed.  Many, if not all, of the small shops that used to occupy the central Electric Town has left.  Under the railway tracks, the ones that head east and west have almost all left.  The area is also undergoing renovations to “modernize” the area and bring about a cleaner feel.  When I first arrived in Japan, I was able to walk through the tight cramped corridors under the station and buy almost any piece of electronic hardware I wanted.  Switches, lights, cables, batteries and anything that used a battery was sold.  The prices weren’t extremely cheap, but very reasonable.  You could walk into the area, spend 20 minutes shopping, and have everything you needed to build your own radio or more if you had the talent.  Today, we can only see shops such as Laox and Ishimaru.  They are the last famous electronics shops in the area.  If you do go to Akihabara, you can usually skip both Laox and Ishimaru as they generally have the same electronics.  However, if you enjoy manga and anime, these shops do have various character goods for sale.  You can also head to Radio Kaikan which is the main centre for anime goods.  All of these shops are located between the station and Chuo-dori.

The area located between Chuo-dori and Akihabara Station is a very safe place for tourists.  You don’t have to worry too much about speaking Japanese, and the staff is generally friendly.  As you head farther away from the station, further east and further north, you will find the shops will speak less and less English.  The area bounded by Chuo-dori, the JR tracks, and Suehirocho Station in the north, is a very interesting area where you can somewhat experience the old style of Akihabara.  The area near the JR tracks still has a foreigner friendly feel, but one block north will present you with shops that can sell almost anything.  If you are looking for PC parts, this is the area for you.  You can see all of the various peripherals that you could imagine, but do be aware that many of them can also be found around the world.  Then, you have Mandrake.  This is a big black building that can be easy to find if you know where to look.  It’s the only big black building in the area.  This is similar to the same shop that is located in Nakano.  They specialize in the second hand trade of anime and game goods.  You can find various old video games, anime characters, videos, and costumes.  It can be a little scary if you venture into the wrong floor.

With all of this information, you could spend an entire day shopping in Akihabara.  It’s a nice place, but everything mentioned so far is quite tame.  In my next post, I will talk about the eccentricities of Akihabara and a little about the changes that have been happening over the last few years.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Eccentric and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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