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Shopping for electronics in Japan

not a picture of akihabara this is actually shinjuku but it looks like akihabara

Many people think that Japan is a great place to travel to in order to purchase electronic goods. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case due in large part to the strong Japanese yen. If the yen were ever to trade again at, say, more than 130 to the US$ (compared to the current 93) then yes, Japan may once again be a good place to purchase hi-tech gear. As it is now, you are likely to find lower, sometimes much lower, prices back in your home country.

There are still some reasons why you may want to purchase a camera or similar item in Japan. Perhaps the item you are looking for is only available in Japan, and you can’t wait the extra few months for it to show up in your neighborhood. Or maybe the version sold in your country is made in China rather than Japan. (I once sold a camera second hand, and the only reason the guy paid me as much as he did was because it was Made in Japan. It turns out most of them sold in the USA were Made in China and sometimes had quality problems the Made in Japan versions did not.)

After arriving in Japan I started looking to purchase a Panasonic DMC-TZ7 (ZS3 in the USA). I could purchase it from the US for about $350. I saw it here in Japan for prices ranging from 33,000 yen to 38,000 yen. Amazon Japan had it for 34,480. I figured I would take the plunge and purchase it in Japan if I could find it for under 30,000 yen (i.e., < $320). I planned to take a trip across town to the Mecca of Japanese electronics--Akihabara. Before making that journey, however, I did a little research on the internet and found that going to each store in Akihabara to see the price was horribly inefficient and didn't necessarily provide the best price anyway. Instead you can go to kakaku.com (kakaku means “cost” or “price” in Japanese), enter the item you are looking for, and find out who is offering the best price on your sought-after item. The site also provides maps, store hours, and other useful information.

It turns out that the TZ7 cost several thousand yen more in the shops right around the Akihabara Station. If I walked 10 minutes beyond Akihabara Station I could purchase the camera for under 30,000 yen. I also found out on the above site that I didn’t even have to go to Akihabara. A place much closer to home had the best price. So I went and purchased it there instead.

The place I purchased my TZ7 is called PCとらや, and I wouldn’t even had known it was an electronics dealer from the outside. I slipped inside to see three guys typing away on computers in a little office. Along one wall were shelves of electronic goods. Apparently they do most of their business over the internet. I could have had the camera shipped for under 500 yen to anywhere in Japan.

So if you are in Japan, and can read a little Japanese, shop on the net instead of going to Akihabara and paying more. Of course, if you don’t know what you want, and/or just want to browse, then it doesn’t get any better than Akihabara. Don’t count on saving any money purchasing things there though.

2 Responses to “Shopping for electronics in Japan”

  1. 1
    Japanese words:

    Very helpful information. The only thing I have noticed with kakaku is that you have to be careful for ordering online as many shops don’t accept credit card (they want furikomi), and of course variations in shipping.

  2. 2
    Michaelpanda:

    The other thing you can do (which I usually do as well, especially for big ticket items like camera lenses or computers) is print out the price from the store you find on kakaku, then bring the printout to Yodobashi Camera (or one of the other major chain retailers like Bic Camera or Yamada denki) and ask them nicely and they will usually price match it.

    The advantage is, this way you know you’re not getting ripped off (as sometimes it can be quite scary when you’re wiring ¥140,000 to some store you found on the internet that you’re not completely sure isn’t a fly-by-night scheme) plus you get the store to stand behind the warranty, just as if you had bought it full price. Much more reassuring to know you can just bring it to the store and get it instantly taken care of instead of having to ship it off to some little shop in another ken which may or may not still be there.

    Otherwise Amazon japan is usually a pretty cheap and affordable choice which still offers the security of a big-name brand. (although I have noticed that some of their prices for camera equipment is quite expensive relative to some of the other stuff I’ve found in person)

    Just my two yen – happy shopping!

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