An American in Tokyo

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

Tokyo is the greatest electric light parade on the planet, the world’s consumer electronics epicenter. I was pleased to discover while traveling last week that it’s also a haven for Macdom, even when there’s no expo in town.

Apple is all over Japan. Eight-story tall banners advertising the new iMacs graced electronics stores in Akihabara and Shinjuku. JR train cars were plastered inside with Aqua and ice-colored ads for the iBook. I even saw men and women of various ages sporting Apple-logo shirts and clothing.


World electronics capital offers plenty of Mac goodies

Tokyo is the greatest electric light parade on the planet, the world’s consumer electronics epicenter. I was pleased to discover while traveling last week that it’s also a haven for Macdom, even when there’s no expo in town.

Apple is all over Japan. Eight-story tall banners advertising the new iMacs graced electronics stores in Akihabara and Shinjuku. JR train cars were plastered inside with Aqua and ice-colored ads for the iBook. I even saw men and women of various ages sporting Apple-logo shirts and clothing.

Forget the new Apple retail stores — Mac heaven is in Akihabara, Tokyo’s world-famous electronics district. If you happen to be in Tokyo, be sure to leave at least a couple of hours for a visit to the neighborhood. Easiest access is via the JR line Akihabara station, from which you can follow yellow signs to “Akihabara Electric Town.” The Hibiya Line subway’s Akihabara station is also just a few blocks away (follow JR line transfer signs and you’ll be in the heart of the district.) And, yes, train signs are all translated into English.

Akihabara from JR station
View from JR station, row of electronics buildings in Akihabara

Coming out of the JR station, you’ll find crowded streets of stalls selling everything from circuit boards to alarm clocks to MiniDisc players, the legitimate descendants of the thriving black market that cropped up here during the occupation after World War II. Keep walking away from the station, and you’ll find numerous electronics mega-stores. All the major electronics stores have one or two floors devoted to the Mac. The biggest is Laox, which is spread out in multiple multi-story buildings throughout the district. Much to my delight, in addition to Macs on display in some of the other buildings, there is an entire BUILDING devoted to the Mac, with — count `em — no less than FIVE floors of Mac goodness.

Laox Mac HQ at Dusk
Laox’s five-story Mac headquarters at dusk

Laox’s Mac-only store had stacks and stacks of software, with displays for graphics, a wall devoted to music & audio with MIDI keyboards and audio interfaces to try out, Japanese-only software, attractive Apple hardware displays, and games. Those of you who read Japanese, the store carries piles of Japanese-language Mac texts, including a variety on OS X, as well as the number of great Japanese magazines like MacFan. For non-Japanese speakers, on the first floor were two counters filled with rare Apple-logo merchandise, and walls on each floor were lined with a fabulous selection of PowerBook accessories and USB devices. (More on Japanese-only finds for your PowerBook in an upcoming article!)

Akihabara offers all the eclecticism of Japan: the neighborhood also has a Russian Orthodox church and Confucian shrine. Cultural experiences should also be on your agenda: I would highly recommend packing a bento box (lunch box) and taking in some theater at the Kabuki-Za. Despite a confusing street system and a complicated rail system, I was surprised by how easy it is to get around the city: train lines are clean and efficient and clearly marked in English (which is not always the case here in New York on our subway).

All I can say to our Japanese Go2Mac readers is, I’m quite jealous and can’t wait to make it back — hopefully with a little more Japanese than just “arigato” on my next trip, too!

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