I've only been here for four weeks and I already have been twice in 秋葉原 (), a part of Tokyo known or almost exclusively for all kind of Electronics, Anime, Manga and Video Games.
On 秋葉原駅 (Akihabara station) it is even referred to as the Electric Town. And that couldn't be more true. Imagine a whole city. Imagine electric stores you have seen in your life by now. Replace 90% of the cities houses with those stores and add above each store several other stores and do the same for underneath the earth and you might slowly get the idea. Of course there is also an inhabited area in Akihabra, but you need to walk really long in a straight line to find it ^^.
The cool thing about 秋葉原 is that, beneath big electronic stores like the ones known from anywhere around Europe and America (though they carry other names) there are countless of small ones. Many of those are run by their owners themselves. Others offer repair services and not a few offer stuff they assembled themselves. Also you can find anything electronic there the world of humans has ever produced!
Starting from some small old shops, which still sell vinyl player and ancient tube radios up to stores which exclusively offer the world's fastest processor, that happened to came out, just when I was last there. For the processor something between 100 - 500 people stood in lines in front of several stores, which started selling it by 10 pm.
Then you can find passages, which are specialized in selling you raw material. Everything you need to build your own electric device from scratch for prices next to free.
The same counts for computers. Since I was searching for a Laptop, I could have taken Laptop models between 1.000 Yen and 400.000 Yen (~ 7 Euro - 2800 Euro). Alas I have made a wrong decision, but more to that later. Also I found a store which sold self assembled Laptops, assembled mostly from parts of other Laptops, and sold them with Suse Linux. (I should have taken one of those...)
the letters read: Retro Games
Well and as I said the town is also about Computer Games. Every Game ever produced for a console and most PC/Computer Games can be found there for a very cheap price. Looking for a lesser known Game Boy Game? Searching the Neo Geo and Games for it? 秋葉原 is definitely your place to go! But the same counts if you are interested in recent consoles and Games. Nowhere on Earth will you get them as cheap as here (e.g. Nintendo Wii new 20.000 Yen ~ 150 Euro, if you take the shop as Internet Provider it becomes 5.000 Yen ~ 38 Euro, if you accept second hand about 10.000 Yen ~ 75 Euro).
Of course it is especially fun to just go and look through all the countless game shops. There are even shops specialized in "Retro Games".
Last but not least, 秋葉原 is the place in Tokyo for Anime and Manga. There are also countless stores for it, like the famous Square/Enix store or the Anime center with wonderful and cheap merchandising (I got myself an Ohmu for a keyring from Nausicaae) and of course Mangakissas (漫画喫茶）, that's a cafe where you sit between big shelves filled with Manga and are allowed to read as much as you can and as long as you want!
There is, however, a downside to this. Young girls are forced to wear Maiden Cosplay to distribute flyers of shops and other stuff. But the worst are Maiden Cafes and Maiden Hostess Cafes. These are cafes where young girls in maiden cosplay serve you your drinks and are supposed to flirt with you and make you compliments and stuff. Its like prostitution without sex, and apparently many Japanese guys go to such Cafes and many Japanese girls agree into this soft prostitution, because they think they need designer bags, shoes and stuff like this. It's really sad.
Maiden, the single most popular costume among girls
As in the Tokyo Game Show 2007, there were a lot of perverts taking pictures of the flyer girls
Well finally the second time I went there to spend my first salary for a Laptop. I found several promising models and was finally deciding between one of the above mentioned self assembling Linux store and a huge Second Hand store.
Although the second store would not let me try my Linux Live CD with the Laptop to find out, what's really in it and although they would not grant me the right to return it within one week and were in general unfriendly (usually Japanese people are very polite and treat you as king/god when interested in buying something from their store) and although it contained a ATI card, I bought it :( and regret it now.
The ATI card promising 320 MB of Video Memory in fact only borrows the memory from the RAM, which of course makes the concept vain. In fact the card is so bad, that you can't even run ordinary 3D games like Cube without dropping all graphic options to a minimum and forget about newer ones.
It's not that I really need this, but for the money I spent, I would have liked to have it (100.000 Yen ~700 Euro). Since I have 3 years of warranty and a stupid Windows Vista with it and since it is all in Japanese, I thing about selling it on an auction page in Japan and going for the other store...
Of course I used the second existing partition on the Laptop hard drive for Linux and use it ever since. However having the Chance to have one own's Windows Vista, I gave it a look. First thing I noticed it used up 25 GB of the Laptop hard drive. No further words to that. Second thing I noticed: Even when you only want to move a file from one place to another (without console) you are asked one time, if you want to move it, then the computer freezes and a Security Warning pops up that warns you that a file is being moved 0 a potential security risk - and if you confirm to this. This happens about anything you can possibly imagine doing on a windows os. Everything produces at least 2 pop ups and freezes and unfreezes the system for the warning, which takes some time. Of course you can find HowTos to switch that off, and HowTos to switch the consequences off (Red X in the right corner blinking and warning you of security risks, because you switched off the freezy warnings) etc. Wow, what a crap!
Second. Since it came in Japanese, I wanted to try switching the language to English or smth. After a whole lot of search, I found out that to switch the language of your Windows Vista version, you need to pay almost the same amount of money you paid for the first one. And of course you have to pay that for any language you desire. Expect you go for the ultra universal super mega edition which costs like thrice or four times as much and actually allows you to switch languages! Wow.
I don't want to speak of that Window's own CPU and RAM observation tool, tells you that if you move you mouse to fast on the screen or even move windows around, the CPU usage of the built in Celeron 3. smth (1.8 real Ghz) rises to near 100%.
Well and to rob Windows of its last arguments, for Linux I tried this time Ubuntu, since a friend at work gave me a Live CD (for trying it in 秋葉原）. And the installation worked perfectly, afterwards even ATI card and Wifi card worked and all was very User friendly (too friendly for my taste, but you always have the option of using a console and see for yourself). What also was nice: If you want for example to open a movie file, Ubuntu offers to install any needed codec and lib and offers you a number of video players to choose one from - than installs everything and runs the movie in the player of your choice. The same counts for any filetype it can make out. Also if something does not work, it immediately offers a solution by installing further software or changing system settings and solved the problem for you. I was really impressed. No Windows OS I have ever seen is capable of amazing stuff like this, all Windows does is pop up a Help Window that is usually not related to the problem.
So if you want to leave Windows and try something new and are a bit afraid of Linux or want to convince a friend to Linux, which has no trust in his capabilities or want to install a Linux for you parents, go for Ubuntu. It is really easier to handle than Windows, and they will love it =)
Wishing you the best
(and currently trying to figure out how to use a Japanese auctions page)
your live reporter at the heat of action
One time I went, all the streets were closed for cars, that was pretty cool.
there was also some real cosplaying =D