Sometimes you start off looking for one thing, and totally by accident or extreme good fortune you end up finding something entirely different. That's exactly what happened to me this morning. As I mentioned in some previous posts, I bought the original components/kit for my first robot from Hobby Engineering in California. I was cleaning up my home office to make room to start my robotic adventure, and after a couple of hours took a short break for a diet coke and a quick surf of the internet. I decided to see what other websites mention Hobby Engineering. While I was scanning down through the Google results I noticed this entry-
The Hobby Electronics from Japan - Menu
Updated on 7 November 2004. Welcome to the Hobby of Electronic Circuit Engineering. If you are in the USA or if this site is not ...
Of course, the 'Japan' word immediately drew my attention and I had to click on the link. What I found was totally amazing. "The Hobby Electronics from Japan" website is a personal project of Seiichi Inoue, a systems engineer that lives in the Tokyo area. His site includes a wealth of information on microcontrollers, circuit design, applications, software, website design, and even some pages covering language. That wouldn't be too unusual, except for the fact that he also publishes his website in English, and has a mirror site in the U.S.
I've lived in Japan, off and on, for over twenty years, and I've always been addicted to all things electronic. My idea of a great Saturday field trip is to spend the whole day exploring all the shops in the Akihabara area, poking around in parts bins, trying out the latest gadgets, and meeting people with a similar addiction. That being said, my general approach to exploring Akihabara is totally random. There are some stores I always visit - like Laox Computer Kaikan, but usually I just wonder up and down the streets browsing as if I was touring a huge museum.
The result is that if you asked me where to buy something specific - like a transformer, resistor, or a particular brand item - I couldn't tell you. I could certainly go to Akihabara and find it for you, and I would enjoy the search immensely. But I couldn't give you the name and location of a specific store where you could locate what you need.
Inoue-san, on the other hand, seems to have documented everything! His site as detailed, clickable maps of the stores he frequents. Not only does he tell you what stores he shops at for different components, he also gives you a lot of background on the stores. In his writeup for a small arcade parts shop he mentions that you better use tweezers to pick up the small parts otherwise the shop owner will get angry.
The amount of detail is totally amazing. For example, under the station train tracks there is a two story electronic parts arcade whose origins date back to the black market right after World War II. It's jam packed, elbow to elbow, with tiny shops and frequently a crush of customers. The ceilings are so low that I have to duck my head. If you're in love with electronics, as I am, it's like a mini-version of hog heaven. But there is so much going on that after a while it all becomes chaos - at least to my simple brain. I quickly reach a state of sensory overload and forget where I saw what.
Inoue, bless his heart, has gone to the trouble of mapping it all out. His site has detailed maps showing each shop, what they specialize in, and the shop name.
If you plan on visiting Akihabara, and you're interested in electronics from an engineering perspective, you owe it to yourself to check out his site. I plan on printing out his maps and carrying them with me on my next trip to Akihabara. If you do stop by his site, make sure to use his contact form to tell him how much you like his site.