Akihabara, commonly nicknamed Denki-gai or "Electric Town," has long been Tokyo's go-to location for all things electronic, with countless stores big and small dotting the streets since the end of World War II. A strip of tiny shops known as Radio Store was instrumental in establishing Akihabara's role in the city — the Allied occupants cracked down on black-market trading, and in 1949 a group of merchants decided to come together and sell their electronic wares in the same location. Radio Store has continued to operate ever since as a pioneer of the district.
But after 64 years of business, Radio Store and its nine current occupants will close down tomorrow, Saturday, November 30th. It's a casualty of Akihabara's shifting role in Tokyo, and the decreasing need for DIY electronics among most consumers. A message posted on the Radio Store website reads "Akihabara continues to transform itself, and through our desire for future development, we have decided to end our role from another era."
Most of the shopkeepers will continue business elsewhere in the area, but Radio Store's atmosphere will be hard to recreate — it remained a unique relic of Japan's Showa period, almost untouched by Akihabara's more recent drive towards anime and other goods aimed at the otaku. I went along to capture its last days.
- This is the view that greets you as you leave Akihabara station. Radio Store is just around the corner on the right, but it's easy to miss amid the high-rise buildings.
- Radio Store is tucked away under the JR Sobu line tracks, and faces onto the busy main Chuo-dori street.
- This store, Takahiro Electric, sells transistors, diodes, and the like. The lit sign has decades-old logos from Japanese companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi.
- Koizumi Musen, a speaker equipment store, was still bustling this week. The red sign thanks customers for their 64 years of patronage and says business will continue at the main store a few blocks away.
- Marumo Parts is having a half-price sale because of Radio Store's closure, but will move to a new location in the area next week.
- A customer inspects Marumo Parts' offerings.
- The view inside a Radio Store shop from Akihabara's Chuo-dori.
- Endless wire in endless colors.
- Another Akihabara icon, Radio Kaikan, was recently demolished due to damage sustained in the 2011 earthquake. A 12-story replacement building is currently under construction and due to open next year, with the original building's occupants currently operating in three temporary locations.
- Radio Store's back entrance is now obscured by the buildings that have sprung up around it.
- Although it's possible to find just about everything sold at Radio Store elsewhere in Akihabara, the convenience and focus on electronics enthusiasts and tinkerers is hard to match. This store stocks a huge selection of wire cutters and the like just a few steps down from where you might buy the wire.
- Radio Center is across the aisle from Radio Store, spilling into the next building. It opened around the same time as Radio Store and stocks a similar array of goods, although in recent years many of its occupants have taken to selling anime-related items in an attempt to fit in with the Akihabara surroundings.
- Workers hang another giant banner on one of Akihabara's many huge stores.