I certainly miss the technology and gadgets that I encountered each day in Japan, Especially now that I am manufacturing tablet devices for education.
With broadband connections ten times faster than the U.S. and 90 percent of the population owning mobile phones, it is not surprising that Japan has its own “Electronic Town.”
Called Akihabara, it is the center of “otaku” or geek culture in Tokyo.
In this “geek heaven” it is possible to buy anything from spy cameras to underground computer games.
“Tokyo is the hot bed for new electronics in the whole world,” said Serkan Toto, Japanese correspondent for the Tech Crunch news blog. “Japan is a very advanced technology-wise, it’s a nation of early adopters.” Japan’s electric town is a covered market stockpiled with any and every kind of electrical component a dedicated geek could dream of.
Radio Street is a must for the hackers and makers among Japan’s cadre of geeks who are seeking components to start or finish a DIY electrical project.
“You can come here and build to your heart’s content,” says technology consultant Steve Nagata, who is also known as the “King of Akihabara”.
For Mr. Nagata, Japan’s long-standing obsession with technology springs from a wish to understand what is behind lots of gadgets.
“It comes from a deep interest in things around them and wanting to find out how things work and know what each component does,” said Mr Nagata.
Akihabara hosts more than just component shops. Finished goods are on sale too. Those willing to rummage can find anything from old radio tubes to audio recorders, high-end surveillance equipment and the low end too, such as a tie with a built-in camera.
“This is a very big part of Akihabara, the surveillance equipment with every kind of camera from professional grade to little teeny cameras that you can stick into all sorts of different things,” said Mr. Nagata.
The equipment itself is legal but how you use it may definitely run afoul of certain restrictions”. “You really never do know when someone is watching you,” he added.
As might be expected Akihabara reflects the thriving underground, homemade software culture in Japan.
“This is a garage software industry for anyone from individuals to small clubs or a company that produce and sell unlicensed software,” said Mr. Nagata. “There are exact look-alikes to completely original software, this stuff is just as impressive as major console software.”
The products cost less than the titles from the major gaming brands but, said Mr. Nagata, making money is not the main aim for the folk behind the software.
“This is very much a labor of love, something that they do out of their affection towards a particular character or style of gaming,” said Mr. Nagata. “It’s their attempt to fill the world with something that they want to exist in it”