W6SI Blog Page (Entry 5)



Akihabara 2015: The Root of My Electronic Hobby


Map of Akihabara
(Click for a larger image)

I just came back from a trip to Japan. Stayed there for a couple of weeks, and had an opportunity to pay pilgrimage to my old root of electronic hobby, the famous town of Akihabara. I was staying in Fujisawa City, a southern neighbor of Tokyo, at about 1 hour of train ride away. Back in my high school days, I lived in Yokohama, which was about 40 minutes away from Akihabara, I kept going back there at least once a month for parts and junk, sometimes just to feel the air there. I knew every front and back street, every little shop and what they sell. Alas, that was more than 40 years ago, and many of those little shops are gone, and the town is taken over by the weird people of Lolita fans and video game junkies. But some are still alive today, and it’s good to know that.

The town is spread primarily to western side of Akihabara train station, which is uniquely cross shaped. Once getting off on western exit, there is Radio Store, alongside Sobu line train track, a two story barrack housing all sorts of parts and equipment from resistors / capacitors to professional spectrum analyzers, power tools, etc. Inside there is Yamamoto Musen, a ham radio retailer (they specialized in V/UHF equipment). Walking across Chuo Street, you’ll find Rocket Musen, my favorite ham radio shop that’s been there as long as I know. They have all lines of radio equipment and antennas, HF to UHF, but also known for their house brand antenna hardware (specialized U-bolts, boom bracket plate, roof towers, mast support for balcony fence, etc.) and loop antennas (click here). Sorry, they don’t ship overseas. I asked.

Outside "Radio Store"

Crossing Chuo-Street

Across the street is Radio Center, a four story building with a bunch of component / kit wholesale and retailers. They have everything from RC's, semiconductors, batteries, transformers, cabinets and hardware materials, test equipments, tools, etc., etc. You can spend whole day there. A little out of the way to the north side of the train track, there is Fuji Musen, another old ham radio retailer. As far as I know these are the only three shops that sells ham radio gears.Of course, US hams do not want to buy radio there, as Japanese ham bands are somewhat narrower than US bands.
Aside from ham radio,  you can still find all sorts of things electronics here. There are several back street junk stores and little parts shops to explore, among big retailers. The town is not an exclusive electronic retailer town as it once was, but you can still find bargains here. I got me a Hi Res audio Walkman (~$240 at Amazon) for about $180 (duty free, thanks to cheaper yen), and bought extra 32GB SD card to add for another $20.

I am from Yokohama, about 40km south of Tokyo. And this side of Akihabara, I knew a few ham places in town. So I decided to visit there, too.

"Rocket" Store

Inside Rocket Store

Inside Radio Center

At Kanagawa Ham Center,
with Masa, JJ1BRB

Alas, many of those places did not survive all these time. The shocker was that one of the largest shops, Hamer’s, shut down recently. They still have a web site up, so I never expected them to be gone. They still seem to manufacture linear amplifier and beam antennas, but no more retail shop. Bammer.

But then I located another shop in south end of Yokohama at Yokodai, not far from where I was staying, called Kanagawa Ham Center. It’s a little individually owned shop, and I befriended the owner, Masa, JJ1BRB. He used to build and sell UHF Swiss-Quad antenna (it’s a unique phased array of quad loop with a great gain and f/b ratio, but has a fairly complex shape). Unfortunately, he said the cost of custom material became too high and burdensome, he is no longer making it. I saw the store demo unit there, but I could not get one.

JA ham population dwindled a bit since its peak back around 2000, but still #2 in number of licensed operators. How many of them are on the air, is unknown, and Masa said many of them are on V/UHF and few comes down to HF. That’s too bad. I contacted several competent JA operators on HF on the air, but they are all 50’s and 60’s years old. Hope younger generation will catch on. For that, I think what SOARA is doing to recruit and Elmer younger hams are great. Keep this wonderful hobby alive.


Above is a reflection of my thought and only mine. But if you have any questions, feedback and/or suggestions, please send me an e-mail. I might reply on this page (sorry, no guarantee)

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Copyright 2015, Tak Asami / W6Si & OSO Technology