I grew with Dad’s stories about the incredible technology toy shops in Tokyo. Every few years, he’d come back from a trip to Japan with some new Nikon gear, or a ham radio. Since then, geek culture has become pop culture (see ‘otaku’), and Akihabara has become a huge center for PCs, mange, anime figurines, and video games. If you take the time to look for it, there’s still a lot of good old fashioned electronics to be found.
Sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, and especially concentrated in some narrow passageways near the train station, are incredibly specialized little shops that hearken back to the area’s heritage as Japan’s primary radio market.
One shop sold nothing but vacuum tubes (or valves, if you will). The proprietor looked like he’d already been doing that job for quite a while when triodes became obsolete (note that NEC has not manufactured the above 6L6 tetrode for quite some time).
Next to the vacuum tube merchant was some guy with a huge display of capacitors, ranging from honking big power filtering cans down to tiny little circuit board components. Maintaining the yin and the yang of electronic oscillation, somebody nearby was hawking inductors. Other stores sold lightbulbs, light fixtures, and lots of stores specialized in tools. One store sold pumps for water gardens, several stores sold bugs and surveillance equipment, and a few stores sold used equipment.
I finally did find a couple of ham radio stores, with bewildering varieties of UHF/VHF antennae, stacks of handheld 2m/440 rigs, gazillions of accessories, and hugely expensive lowband rigs from Yaesu. And I did wander around a camera shop, too. Although they still call it Yodabashi Camera Store, their megastore in Akiba/Akihabara is 7 stories tall, selling just about everything that runs on electricity, and a lot of accessories that don’t. I preferred the small shops.