One of the most common questions I hear in Japan is “What’s your hobby?” I don’t have a hobby. I’m an undergraduate student working any number of part-time jobs; any time that I do have left-over is usually wasted on the internet.

However, I’ve found “I don’t have a hobby” is not an acceptable answer in Japan. Being a Cheapo, I asked one of my friends what the cheapest “acceptable” hobby was. She suggested music and pointed me to the nearest Hard Off Tokyo store.

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

The awkward name, Hard-Off, comes from the fact that it is one of the “Off” brand chain stores in Japan that sells Hardware or other appliances. Hence the name: Hard-Off.

Occasionally, to save space and money, the “Off” chain stores are paired together. This Hard-Off was paired with Off-Home (selling used clothes and home appliances). I’ve also seen Hard-Off paired with Hobby-Off (cheap figurines/stuffed animals and collectible cards). I’ve never seen it paired with Garage-Off (large appliances that would go in your garage) or Book-Off (cheap, used books).



Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

The layout of the store is pretty simple; the color combination is electric blue and bright yellow and similar items are grouped together. I spent the bulk of my time looking through old VHS tapes (and wondering if anyone actually still has a VHS player), browsing through shiny, wooden guitars, figuring out if any of the 525yen cameras actually worked, and debating on whether or not to buy a (used) 160 GB I-pod classic for 12,000yen.

The Hard-Off store in Tokyo has a surprisingly wide variety of electronics. They have the “classics” like CDs, DVDs, games for basically any kind of consul, and VHS tapes, along with several rows of bright blue “junk” boxes that are overflowing with 105yen to 600yen cameras, lenses, cables, extension cords, speakers, memory sticks, and several rows of things I wasn’t able to recognize (I’m not a technology-savvy person).

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

They also have instruments: both acoustic and electric guitars, drum sets, a couple flutes, and a lone trumpet. I think it honestly depends on location; I can’t wait to go to one of the larger Hard-Off chains and see what other kinds of gems they have. The guitars were in the 1,500yen – 4,000yen range. There were a couple guitars significantly more expensive, probably because of the brand or condition, but most were in my price range.

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

Until I remembered I don’t like playing instruments. Spoiler alert: I didn’t buy a guitar. My friend did, though.

The expensive electronics were in glass cases. They had affordable electronic dictionaries, translating from Japanese to English, German, French, Korean, Chinese, and even one for Italian. They had a couple third-generation iPhones, various MP3 players, all sorts of Wii accessories, and (my personal favorite) a couple AKB48 dating simulation games. You could date all 48 of the AKB girls, showing swimsuit scenes, a romantic date at Tokyo Disneyland, and a couple wedding dresses.

All in all, I ended up spending about an hour in Hard-Off, browsing through their “junk” section of blue bins. I kept hoping I would accidentally find some mysterious and valuable treasured electronic devise.

I bought this USB port because it was only 105yen and vaguely resembled a children’s game. A lot of the things they sell are Hard-Off are still in original packaging.

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

It’s pretty hard to beat the price of 105yen in Tokyo, especially for something in original packaging.

Towards the end of the store, they have a 買い取りsection where you can sell off your old electronics. I will probably end up bringing by some old stuff someday, but I can’t imagine you would get very much for your old electronics. Hard-Off sells things for cheap.

Oh, also I’ve decided my “hobby” is listening to music. My friend said that’s a real hobby, and Hard-Off Tokyo had a whole collection of affordable speakers. I bought a nice, shiny black one about the size of my head for 525yen.

Locations:

Akihabara, Aobadai, Hachioji, Iidabashi, Kawasaki, Matsudo, Mitaka, Musashino, Nerima, Nishikanagawa, Okachimachi, Tachikawa, Tama.

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