A Guide: Computer Shopping in Japan + PC Shop Review

1:08 AM

My new set-up! Aaaand.. Facebook. :U
Note: This post ended up waaay longer than intended, but I've bolded and highlighted important sections to make it easier to scroll through the entire file. Bless your soul if you read through this entire post ;n; ALSO, I'm not PC guru, I'm barely tech-literate, but I do know how to shop, and I'm particularly good at shopping in Japan, so that is the main focus of this post.
So, for any other shoppers who might be doing PC purchases in JP, I thought I'd list a few sites/stores, as well as some terms, that should helpful when PC shopping in Japan.

Most major cities have some kind of electronics district, Akihabara in Tokyo, and in Osaka's case, Den-den Town a.k.a. Nipponbashi. Within these districts, there are dozens of PC shops, second-hand shops, and parts shops. Actually, the sheer volume in these relatively small areas can be daunting, and would leave any consumer concerned that they might have been over-charged for something that was way cheaper a few stores down. 

The best way to work through this issue is through ネット検索 (netto kensaku or web search)! Sometimes that small-ish second-hand shop you saw in Nipponbashi is actually owned by a larger parent company, which enables you to browse many of their items online before you need to make any decisions.
For those not looking to do any intense (read: gamer) computer shopping, Japan is plentiful in it's selection of basic bitch PCs. You can get a new, fairly powerful laptop for under 50,000 yen, HD monitor and all, or if you want to go even cheaper, you can pick out a second-hand notebook laptop for 15,000 yen. Accessories like cases, keyboards and mice abound, most with impressive color choices to boot, so you won't be disappointed. I would, however, recommend that those just looking for a cheap PC for work should go directly to shop as opposed to ordering online, just so you have a place to go to directly if your PC ever has a problem.

Continuing, if you're searching parts, PCパーツ as a keyword is a good place to start. The larger businesses that tend to pop up through searches are:

(Median Prices listed are for customize-able base middle tower Gaming PCs that are ready to run out of the box. Companies also offer basic desktop, super gaming PCs, compact gaming desktops or desktops for creatives and prices will vary accordingly.)

Might find some items not usually found in Japan like the ASRock LGA1150, though the prices aren't so competitive. More or less what you can find on a western Amazon site, but at slightly inflated prices. You can also try making a BTO system, but their range of offered parts seems smaller than other sites. And it’s less building and more finding a PC they already have that matches your parameters. Using the word BTO does make your site seem more tech savvy though it would seem.

SOFMAP 40,000 yen and UP (this price range includes normal PCs and gaming PCs)
New and Used PCs/printers/parts/monitors/etc. Also has shops in Nipponbashi and operates under BIC Camera (a larger electronics goods shop). PCs start with a pretty generous price range, but they don't do BTO and you can't customize PCs on the site. Additionally, there isn’t a listing for “gaming PCs,” so your best bet may to be to search by maker (Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, Dell, etc.). They do carry all of the parts you would need to build you own PC though, and they have barebone PCs.

TSUKUMO 79,000 yen and UP
Appears to be based out of Akihabara with branches in Nagoya and Sapporo (No Osaka branch). They website is a much more difficult to navigate compared to Amazon.co.jp and SOFMAP, a rather strong command of Japanese reading is helpful, but not necessary if you have Rikaichan. Operates under Yamada Denki (another large, national electronics shop). 
Seems to list a lot of expensive desktop systems first, though they also handle used PCs. They allow customization and say they have BTO, but the BTOs actually seem to just be modded versions of the PCs they already put together (and you usually can't go lower than the initial price).

Dospara 60,000 yen and UP
A very clean and easy to understand website compared to TSUKUMO and SOFMAP. They also sell other electronics, software and used electronics, very competitive pricing and you can customize the computers. Plus, the way they display their gaming PCs, it's easy to find the lower priced ones and what components they come with. With customization, you can lower the initial price, but not by any significant amount (on the test comp I made, I went from 63,698 yen  to 61,399 yen, including shipping). They have BTO on the website, but it looks like you're actually just customizing the pre-existing PCs.

PC Koubou 90,000 yen and UP
I’d actually been to this shop in Nipponbashi while doing a preemptive strike at price checking, and they had the most helpful and friendliest staff. And they didn't keep staring at Shota for help when I was clearly the one doing the shopping and asking the questions. 
The website has actually changed since I used it last and become a little easier to navigate. They deal almost exclusively in PC goods and DIY PC combos (組立キット). While it has BTO written on the site, it seems more like slight mods to what's already listed, and quite a bit more expensive than Dospara or even TSUKUMO. The higher prices might denote that they're using better equipment, but I've haven't researched that far into it.

Faith 90,000 yen and UP
One of the places I did a price check at before I made my PC purchase. This company also has DIY kits and the way the specs are listed makes it easy to understand, even without a strong grasp of Japanese, however, the site is not quite as easy to navigate. There are a lot of English descriptors used for the PCs though, so with a little time, you can figure it out.
This site seems to specialize in PC related components, particularly high-end, branded PCs and and notebooks, so you won't general electric goods here as with some other places. They also carry DIY kits and the listed PCs are available for customization, but the prices won't get lower than the initial price.

VSPEC 45,000 yen and UP
This shop labeled as a BTO online shop and it actually does live up to the name. You can start your search from the navigation bar at the top by choosing desktop or gaming PC. Gaming PCs are listed by game and are customizable, but you can’t get full customization with these. Desktop PCs have simple and full customization, just select, for example, a コストパフォーマンス (cost performance) model, and make upgrades from there via フルカスタムコース (full custom course). From the same menu, you can also choose to have it BTO or as a DIY kit. I would say this is one of the best places to go when searching for BTO in Japan.
Also, under full custom, if you already have, say, memory or a graphics card, you can build your PC sans those parts, and put them in when the PC arrives. I was originally going to get my PC from this site, but they aren’t so good at communication, and took almost a week to respond to my e-mail. By then, I had already found another place to order from. Snoozing and losing.

This site is actually for comparing prices from other sites. I don’t think it would be very useful for anyone looking to get a BTO as it will try to find PCs that sort of match what you’re looking for. You’ll have to go to the site selling the item to find out whether or not it can be customized (the one site I checked out from kakaku.com has customization but you couldn’t make it cheaper than the base price). But if you’re trying to find the site with the cheapest prices for PC parts or where to get a cheap monitor, Kakaku.com is very helpful. Be warned though, they might not always show the best value on the net, so I usually run a search there after I’ve visited all of my favorite sites.

PC One’s 42,000 and UP
This company is local to the Nipponbashi area of Osaka. As far as I can tell, they don’t have any smaller shops popping up anywhere and their business is conducted out of their shop in Nipponbashi. They also ship out computers so this is where I ended ordering my computer from!

They deal PC parts and some small electronics, and they also buy and sell second-hand items. Their website isn’t quite as fancy as TSUKUMO or Faith, and they don’t have a listing for “gaming PCs.” Instead, they list the computer parts that go well with certain games and have listings for their own original computers, which seem to be geared more toward gamers. You can also customize one of their original PCs, or do a full customization where you can choose every part of the PC by searching through the parts on the site. Through that method, if you choose just the cheapest parts, you can get a BTO for just over 40,000 yen. They also have keyboards, speakers, mice and monitors to add to your order. When I made my purchase, the shipping was free, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m in Osaka City as well, or because I spent enough to qualify or what. :|

My New PC

The PC I ended up with was a customization of one of their original PCs (I wasn’t ready for the hardcore search for parts) but it fit well with my pretty strict budget while giving me the playing power I needed to run Steam and FF14 (now if only I could stay connected for more than 2 minutes) along with the Adobe Creative Suite and some video editing programs.

The PC was shipped via Sagawa, which is a private shipping company, but it still ended up with a huge hole in the box. Thank good there was no apparent damage to the PC inside and we still seem to be doing well so far. Fingers crossed.

 Within the large shipping box there were 2 smaller boxes, one for the PC and another for the boxes of all the parts, the keyboard and mouse. Very nicely packed, especially considering shipping was free and there were no additional handling costs.

 I got one of the cheaper cases, but it still has a window and that was the main feature I wanted in the case. There are a total of 4 fans, I think, 1 up top and another in the front (or maybe it's 2, I didn't actually open it up :< ) and there's still plenty of space inside for more drives and fans and fancy things. I'm still a novice at computing building, but I'm planning on begging my friend to teach me sometime soooon. Heh heh.

It was up and running right out of the box (though I had to run out for a LAN cable long enough to run to my office space)! It handled all the software I needed loaded up in no time, and though I didn't have the proper software for running the Blu-ray drive (why is blu-ray such a pain?? I just want to watch my Disney blu-rays.. ), I was literally glued to it for the better part of a weekend.

The monitor, a 21.5 inch touchscreen 1080p by Green House, I just found randomly on Amazon.co.jp. It has HDMI, VGA and DPI inputs, and the menu can be displayed in Japanese or English. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available on Amazon.com, which means you can probably only get it in Japan, but that's what this guide is for anyway. There are quite a few other reasonable options for touchscreen monitors in Amazon, but Green House was the only one that seemed to come with a pen (the pen from my Microsoft Surface also works on it too). I think a larger format (large compared to iPads and other tablets) touch monitor is something for budget-conscious artists to consider, especially with the Cintiq costing what it does.

A nice screen comparison of my old Alienware, the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Green House 21.5 Touchscreen.
Some negatives would be that touchscreen monitors aren't necessarily build for pens, so they respond to anything that comes into contact with the screen. This means no resting the hand on the screen while drawing, but, instead, taking a drawing position similar to painting on a wet canvas. Not for everyone, but so far I like the way it works with my back and wrist.

Shopping for what I wanted took much more time than I wanted (I'm a Scorpio :U), but I'm glad that it did because in the end, I got exactly what I wanted and all within my budget. If you worry that your Japanese might not be strong enough to tackle online shopping, definitely try a PC shop first. In big electronic shops that handle crowds of international customers, like BIC Camera or Yodabashi Camera, they often have English-speaking staff available. I can't say how far you'll get with them, but it's better than nothing.

If you're like me, and are ready to take up the challenge (read: seem to dread actual contact with humans), don't be afraid to e-mail or give the shop a call if you have a problem. Most of the sites seem to operate on weekends and holidays (I ordered my PC during Golden Week), and if you start to doubt the shop, don't be afraid to cancel the order. :>

Helpful Terms
Most PC words are borrowed from English, so if you can read katakana, or say them “in katakana,” then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If not, well this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to expand your katakana studies. :>

超弩級 - Choudokyuu (literally super dreadnaught) high-end, high spec gaming PCs, usually the most expansive. Other descriptors may be 高品質 (kouhinshitu high quality)
Always check the specs of the "high end" computers as they might not actually pack the power you need.

ゲーム推奨モデル –  (ge-mu suisho moderu) Game endorsement model. Gaming PCs currently endorsed by certain games. This usually means there are very expensive.

組立キット - (kumitate kitto) DIY kits are a complete set of computer parts that you can buy at a discounted price and put together at home. The parts included in the set cannot be changed.

BTO - Built-to-order. This should mean that the PC is made to order, but a lot of PC sites seem to only allow slight modifications to existing systems. Try VSPEC or PC One's for full customization.

キャンペーン情 (Kyanpe-n jouhou) Campaign Information. Sometimes includes discounts for parts of sets of parts.

通販 (tsuuhan) Mail order

光学ドライ (kougaku doraibu) Optical drive

(dengen) Power source

静音 (seion) Low volume (usually means the fans or low volume or the whole PC creates very little noise).

見積り – (mitsumori) Estimation, quote

銀行振 (ginkou furikomi) Bank transfer. Often in Japan, large purchases require a bank transfer.

And that's about it. The shop explanations ran on a bit longer than planned, but I really wanted to include as much information as possible. If you need some more and have really specific questions, just drop a comment or an e-mail! :>


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