Useless doors

This is my collection of “useless doors”, there are tons of them in Japanese cities. Japanese is a relatively secure country but people usually install advanced security systems (Alarms, cameras and stuff like that), but it seems that they don’t really care too much about the security level of their garden door.

For example, look at this door with a SECOM sticker. SECOM is a security solutions company, specialized in installing alarm systems.

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This house has an alarm and the door looks pretty protective but… if we zoom out(See next picture), we found out that it is a useless door, we can go inside evading the door from the right side!

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These are some more pictures, so you can have fun looking at the funny details.

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10% discount if it's raining

I got this discount ticket that it’s valid for a dinner in a restaurant only if it’s raining. I’ve only seen in practice this marketing strategy in Japan but I think it could work in other places. Would you go out for dinner if you have a 10% discount or would you stay at home?

Lluvia

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Akihabara, otaku and geek sacred land

Akihabara is the biggest electronics shop district in the world and one of the most important Japanese pop culture springs. Akihabara dreamed place for gadget, technology, anime, video games, robots and manga lovers. Akihabara is where many geeks and otakus from all around the world dream to travel once in their life. Located near Tokyo station, since sixty years ago Akihabara has been known as the “Electric Town”. In the fifties Akihabara shops were selling radios, in the 60s and 70s TVs, washing machines and refrigerators, in the 80s and 90s personal computers and video games, and after 2000 also anime, manga and otaku culture in general is conquering Akihabara. Right now is the biggest electronics shop district in the world. But Akihabara is not only known because of its shops, is also a fountain of pop culture movements like Cosplay (people dressed like their manga or anime heroes), Maid Kissas, Otakus, Akiba-kei (social group who likes to spend free time in Akihabara, sometimes is translated as geek) and many others.

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This is the first thing you will see if you take the “Electric Town Exit” arriving with train.

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What I love about Akihabara is variety, you can find little shops selling only transistors, transformers and electronic components and walk some meters and enter Yodobashi, the biggest electronics department in the world. Little shops and huge department stores, new gadgets and cameras that are only available in Japan, video games and machines that will never be abroad, cheap second hand computer shops, old video game shops; everything mixed to attract the attention of all kinds of people.

Let’s see an overview of the different types of shops you can find in Akihabara:

Department stores: around the station there are some huge department stores (LAOX, Ishimaru, Yodobashi, Sato Musen) filled with the newest electronic goods: TVs, cameras, video games, laptops, washing machines etc. These are the general purpose places, if you are traveling and you show your passport they will discount a 5%. Tax free!

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Huge department stores are a good place to start your visit to Akihabara.

Computer shops: in the 90s the main business in Akihabara were computers, right now is not so important but still there are many places specialized in computers. Tsukumo and Softmap are the big shops but the most interesting places to check are the little computer shops you will find just after crossing the big avenue. Second hand computers are pretty popular in Akihabara.

Hobby stores: shops specialized in merchandising, figures and all kind of goods about anime series, films and video games. Kotobukiya and Asobit are two of the most crowded hobby stores in Akiba. If you like Gundam, Mazinger or Evangelion you should go to one of these stores.

Manga and anime: there are also whole buildings full of manga and anime DVDs, the dream of all otakus. The most important manga stores are Mandarake and Animate, Japanimation is the main anime shop.

Videogame shops: there are many videogame shops around Akihabara where you can buy not only the newest games in the market but also old games. For example, if you go to a shop called Superpotato you can even buy dead videogame systems like MSX, Superfamicom or Virtual Boy.

Electronics: there are many little shops concentrated below the rail tracks where they sell electronic components, these shops form all together what is known by the Akihabara people as the Radio Center. I like to see the people selecting components in the Radio Center, how they carefully select each processor and then buy a manual about building your own humanoid robot.

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Following the Electric Town exit you will end up near the entrance to Radio Center, a unique place full of really small shops selling electronic parts.

Maid Kissas: Meido Kissas are coffee shops where ladies wearing maid clothing serve you the coffe. When you enter a Meido Kissa, many girls welcome you bowing and they utter a respect formula in Japanese, something like “Welcome back, honorable man of this home”. There are many Maid Kissas and if you want to enter one of them just accept the advice of one of the girls dressed as maids who are handing out leaflets around the station.

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If you are thirsty while after buying tons of video games you should try a Maid Kissa.

If you go to Akihabara my advise is to enter one of the big department stores and buy what you are interested in, the prices and service are pretty good. Then walk around and visit the shops you are interested in, if you love manga, just go directly to Animate or Mandarake, if you prefer figures spend your time in Kotobukiya or Asobit. The big stores are huge and time goes fast while you are in, that’s why I advice you to select the places you enter during your Akihabara visit day.

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WTF Video

Recorded this video from a screen in the entrance of a DVD store in Osaka. Would you go inside this DVD store after watching this video in the entrance?

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Radio Center

“Radio Center” (“Rajio sentaa” – ラジオセンター) is a group of many little shops specialized in electronic components: multimeters, transistors, valves, capacitors, robot components, you can even find humanoid robots! The biggest electronic components department store in the world. Walking by these shops, that are all below the rail tracks next to Akihabara Station feels like being inside Gunnm. If you love creating your own electronic circuits and micro-robots then you found your paradise, if not you will still have fun walking around the little shops inside the Radio Center and observing how clients spend time selecting the proper transistors or negotiating the price of an old 70‘s computer.

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Radio Center entrance, the flying robot is the mascot character.

“Radio Center” was the name of the first area where electronics started to be sold in Akihabara, the main stuff were “radios”. But after some time Akihabara became a TV place, a computer place, an otaku place and lately is a super-hobby-electronics area. But the original “Radio Center” shops remained and resisted the capitalist avalanche. I love that in Japan they start new things but they keep the old ones, for example, they are obsessed with digital cameras but you can still find hundreds of shops selling “analog” cameras in Tokyo. Another example are the retro games shops you can find everywhere in Japan where you can buy 80s-90s video games. Keeping the old, properly conserving it and creating new things, that’s the Japanese way.

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You can find all kinds of electronic components, from old valves till the new FPGAs or micro controllers.

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Radio Center shops are extremely little, old, nostalgic, shabby and some corners full of cables feel even creepy. Many of the shops inside Radio Center don’t even have a door, there is a little hole in the middle of all the electronic components mess where the clerk can attend his clients. Radio Center has two entrances, one is just next to the “Akihabara electric town” exit from Akihabara station, the other one is below the train tracks bridge (There is a big robot and a spaceship easy to recognize). The first floor has many GPS navigation shops, multimeter shops and LED shops. The second floor has even more specialized shops with components for robots, motors, and old radio components. If you buy something remember that on these type of places you are supposed to negotiate the price.

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  • 1.- Radio Center main entrance
  • 2.- “Radio Department”, is a Radio Center extension.
  • 3.- “New Radio Center”, is another Radio Center Extension
  • Google Maps link.
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Guitar phone

Taito launched a really cool software that uses Docomo mobile phones sensors and cameras to emulate a guitar or any other musical instrument. The software name is “Chokkanband” and what it does can be seen visually in this image:

Movil guitarra

But better than words, and better than images, take a look at these videos:

Sources: CScoutJapan and Chokkanband.

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Highway in the 5th floor

This is one of my favorite buildings in Osaka:

Autopista elevada

I had taken many pictures of this building but I never thought of approaching to it. Anenglishmaninosaka did it, and he took this building directory picture:

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It says “Highway from the 5th until the 7th floor”. I wonder if there is something else in the building…

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I wonder if inside it looks like this.

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Tranquil time in Tokyo

One of the best things I like about Tokyo is that, even though it is one of the most populated cities in the world, if you walk away five minutes from any train station you can find places that metaphorically transport you outside of Tokyo. Sometimes I have the feeling I’m not in Tokyo but in a little village lost in the mountains.

This picture was taken three minutes walking from this other picture last Sunday. There is a kid playing with his Nintendo DS in a park.

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And if you look at the top-right corner there is an old woman taking care of the park’s garden.

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I walked towards the old woman, and yes! she was “guerrilla gardening”.

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I walked by again four hours later and she was still there. But the kid was not.

Name of the post inspired by Tokyo Times “Tranquil time” series.

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Tokyo pictures 2008 – People

From today until the end of the year I’m going to publish some posts with the title “Tokyo pictures 2008”. In each post I will concentrate in different subjects, in this first article the subtitle is “People”. At the end I will put together the best pictures from each post considering your opinions reading the comments from each post. The idea of this series is to capture Tokyo’s 2008 zeitgeist. I used a Nikon D90, a Nikon D40 and a Canon IXY Digital 910 IS to take these pictures.

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