Fantastic 1993 footage of Tokyo's electronics district Akihabara, aka "Electric Town"

Originally published at: Fantastic 1993 footage of Tokyo's electronics district Akihabara, aka "Electric Town" | Boing Boing


I bought a portable minidisk player from Akihabara on a work trip in 1998, at about 9pm. It was amazing - my first time in Asia, and it was so strange to see people buying cutting-edge consumer electronics from a street market after their dinner.


When I lived in Japan we called Akihabara “appliance heaven.” Almost everything you could find there was 5 - 10 years ahead of the US. Only camera equipment was the same.

I also remember electronics disposal day when we’d go “shopping” for electronics and small appliances that were more often than not a couple years out of date but still functional. Good times!


Not much different from Nathan Road in HK at the same time.
Also the souq in Jeddah was a pretty good place to shop for that stuff.

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You might like the Seun electronics market in Seoul, which is or was full of little shops selling cables and components.


I did buy a mini disc player in Akihabara in 2001 or so. I didn’t much care for shopping all the tiny stalls- all the hassle, none of the haggling. But I always enjoyed the less cutting edge tech like Super Potato and the one weird oden vending machine.

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I visited Tokyo a couple of years before the situation, and it’s almost heartening to know that even thirty years ago, everything already made noise.

Every store display, escalator, animated billboard, vending machine, literally everything in Japan seems to play back digitized audio.

I can’t wait to go back again, but even so, my trip there was the only vacation I’ve ever been on where coming back home was more relaxing.


I was there in 2001, everything was Memory Sticks and digital translator devices (that all looked like calculators/Palm Pilots/tiny laptops). But apart from the actual products on display, it looks pretty much the same!


Neat! A fun throwback to a more diverse tech era before Akiba became less about the tech itself and more about mainstream shopping and the otaku culture surrounding tech.

A couple of thoughts:

(1) A reminder of the sheer variety of devices that were available before the smartphone swallowed so many categories of gadgetry. That Sony PalmTop is a blast from the past. :joystick: :pager: :fax: :floppy_disk: :camera: :video_camera:

(2) Despite the passage of time, the main street — Chuo Dori — is remarkably recognizable. Handa’s telltale escalator tubes are for sure.

It is interesting to think about what Akiba will look like 30 years from now; wonder if it will still be as recognizable at that point? :thinking:


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