We Visit Mecca

Okay, yeah, not Mecca literally, since we’re in Japan. But for someone interested in electronics, or Japanese pop culture, or both, Akihabara in Tokyo is the holy city. We’ve been there before, but thanks to a lack of preparation and a foray in the wrong direction, we ended up seeing very little of it. This time, thanks to a great video on the Dangerous Prototypes site, I was better prepared.

The electronics shops are amazing. On the other hand, it made me realize how lucky I am to live near J B Saunders, an electronics shop in Boulder which I’ve frequented since my college days. Saunders doesn’t have either the breadth or the depth of the shops in Akihabara, but it does offer the same hands-on shopping experience described in the Dangerous Prototypes video.

I spent most of my time in Sengoku. Their selection of hand tools is stunning; they have have just about every tool for electronics or small mechanical work that you can think of, and many you wouldn’t think of. It’s not terribly practical to shop for electronics supplies spontaneously, since you have to guess at what might be useful in the future for some hypothetical project. I ended up buying a bunch of these:

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They’re SMT to PTH adapter boards. I’m going to take the liberty of saying that if that doesn’t mean anything to you already, then the explanation probably wouldn’t be very interesting.

We also looked around in a computer shop that sells both complete systems–mostly laptops–and components for building your own. Upstairs was a department for hobbyist robotics, with lots of parts (both electronic and mechanical) and things like ready-to-go hexapods. They had a remarkable Acer laptop with a second touch-sensitive LCD in place of the usual keyboard and touchpad. Tracie became somewhat enamoured of a pink Sony Vaio, but we managed to escape without any rash purchases.

After that I managed to not get sucked into the serious otaku destinations like the manga and figurine shopes, although we were somewhat tempted by the official Gundam Cafe and Bar. We saw someone in a stunningly accurate Hatsune Miku costume; unfortunately she vanished while I was digging my camera out of the bag.

Yesterday we poked around Asakusa, visiting our favorite spots like the washi store and small park next to the Senso-ji temple. We noticed that there’s been some sort of restructuring by whatever entity manages this area. In the past there have been a number of temporary stalls which sell food, including the Noodle Lady whom I described during our first visit some years ago. These are gone without a trace. Near the same area, on a perpendicular street, are a number of new stalls which generally look more permanent, and house vendors of clothing, traditional housewares, etc. I don’t know what the reasoning behind the change was, but I assume that it must have something to do with the collapse of the tourist trade last year. Happily, the tourists have returned in droves.

Tracie noticed, while I was writing this entry, that the Sky Tree is partially illuminated with a nice shade of purple:

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There are other things I could write about, but I’m pretty sleepy so I’m going to stop here. Tomorrow we make our traditional trip to Hase, near Kamakura, to see the Great Buddha.

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