Akihabara Electronics District in Tokyo, Circa 1990

In 1990 I had the opportunity to visit Japan for the first time, after making it into the final round of an international design competition that Sony ran for students at the time. I got a little prize money for my honorable mention, but the best part was that we got a 10 days, all-expenses paid tour of Japan. Being a young designer, I was fascinated by all the environmental, architectural and product design differences in Japan compared to the US and Europe where I’d grown up.

Along with the more traditional tourist stops, I made sure to visit Akihabara, the famed electronics district in Tokyo. Below are some images from that afternoon that capture a little taste of what it was like almost 3 decades ago.

The shelves of Walkmans tell you everything you need to know about that era: Overflowing with minutely differentiated plastic products, which if you visited 6 months later would be all different. The hanging displays of shrink-wrapped calculators, and the raw cables. I love the window display of ball bearings, in the shop that sells, well, nothing but ball bearings. And the display of single-station radios which were a fad at the time - credit card sized antennas that emblazoned with the logo of the only station they could tune into (they would snap into a universal battery-powered amplifier with a headphone jack).

Photographic note: These were shot on 35mm film, using the Canon T90 I’ve featured on this site.