I just returned from a holiday in Japan, a country with a fascinating culture for electronics. My biggest takeaway is how mainstream gadgets are in Japan; unlike most other countries, there seems to be electronics stores at every corner, with average, everyday kind of people shopping there.
The first impression you get from visiting one is the barrage of colors and signs that beset you. Check out one below:
Stores would typically have a board of promotions out front, which is clever. Deal hunters and casual shoppers who pass by can take a few minutes to see if there’s anything worth buying. Many of these electronics stores are massive (the one I went to had 6 floors!) and could deter everyone but those shopping for something specific. So having the board outside with all the promotions is a good trigger to get people in.
The selection of stuff inside is amazing. Far better than any electronics store I’ve been to elsewhere. I got to check out firsthand all the obscure laptops, 2-in-1s, etc. that I may read about but never handled because they are too niche for my local electronics store to carry.
The section for headphones was particularly impressive. You’d be lucky if your local electronics store had any to test; often, you have to go to audio specialist stores to try a good range.
The store I went to in Tokyo – which is even more generalist than a Best Buy as it sold non-electronic items – had literally hundreds of headphones on display that you can test with your music player. All without having to ask for permission, and without store clerks looking over your shoulder making sure you don’t steal anything.
It was a subtle and powerful demonstration of the kind of service one can expect in Japan.
The crime rate is low in Japan, and generally there’s a high trust factor between merchants and customers. I was amazed they had smartphones on display near the entrance that weren’t even tethered!
It seemed so easy to pick one up and walk out with it – Japan would be a burglar’s wet dream.
Speaking of phones, I saw two that I’ve never seen or read about before.
One is this strange hexagonal shaped phone, the Arrows NX F-02G from Fujitsu.
The other is from Huawei – the Stream S I believe – and it impressed me. It’s thin and incredibly light, and made with a textured plastic that was nice to touch and provided good grip. I don’t know if the phone itself is any good, but I love the form factor.
If it came with a 5.5-inch display (the one I held was a 4.7-incher) and the latest technology, I would be an interested customer.
One thing I did find surprising is the Nexus 6, which was being pushed aggressively everywhere I went. There were many in stock – so if they are sold out in your area, it’s probably because all those Nexus 6s are allocated for Japan.
While you see the usual assortment of Japanese Android phones, iPhones do appear to be king there. My casual observation is that a good half of people living in Tokyo used iPhones.
Perhaps that’s why there are so many Nexus 6s there – Google wants to make sure it’s represented well in one of the world’s largest markets.
I would have taken more pics, but unfortunately got a lot of unfriendly looks while taking photos. The store isn’t worried about people stealing their phones, but they’re not quite OK with people taking photos.