Electronic Town | Japan | Living in Mexico

Electronic Town

I took the subway to Electronic Town, where about a thousand tiny stores sell every imaginable kind of technological device. Huge crowds of shoppers picked through computers, audio gear, cameras, components--you name it. The din and confusion of people milling about was incredible. It was like a Moroccan bazaar.

The crowds in Electronic Town are 90% male, 90% geeks. They made me feel right at home. I'd found my people.


Electronics hobbyists.

Hawkers stood outside the larger establishments, calling out in amplified sing-song voices. This girl, in boots and miniskirt, is pitching video games. You see hawkers everywhere in Tokyo, even in toney districts like the Ginza. They pitch passers-by on PA systems or they hand out flyers. Everyone ignores them. So it's hard to imagine why shopkeepers continue to use them.


Product girl.

I found a wonderful, dingy building housing four floors of little shops, each one smaller than my hotel room, each one selling some subcategory of components. The men who operated them were buried among stacks of motherboards, switches, transformers, ceramic insulators, tubes, transistors, heat sinks, resistors, capacitors, used instruments and a hundred other things. Unstylishly-dressed men shuffled up to them with grubby lists in their hands, looking for components for their latest projects. They reminded me of people out of Blade Runner.

Forty years ago, a similar district was strung out along Canal Street in Manhattan. I used to take the train to the Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken, NJ and hop the ferry across the Hudson River, where I'd spend hours drooling over gear I couldn't afford. I especially lusted after war surplus transmitters and receivers. After hours of walking and looking, I'd make a few well-considered purchases and hurry home to put them to use. All this is gone now; a sad loss.