Hard Off Tokyo: Affordable Electronics, Instruments, and Recycled “Junk”

Grace Buchele Mineta

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.

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).

hard off store

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).

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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.

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.

electronic usb drive

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.

Written by:
Filed under: Shopping
Tags: Cheap Electronics, Cheap Hardware, Hard-Off, Off Chain Stores, Resident
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Name: Hard Off ハードオフ
Location(s): Akihabara, Aobadai, Hachioji, Iidabashi, Kawasaki, Matsudo, Mitaka, Musashino, Nerima, Nishikanagawa, Okachimachi, Tachikawa, Tama,
Web: http://www.hardoff.co.jp/
Phone: 0774-66-1306 0774-66-1306
Business hours: 10:00 ~ 20:00 (depending on location)

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4 Responses to “Hard Off Tokyo: Affordable Electronics, Instruments, and Recycled “Junk””

  1. Avatar

    Though I’m not sure it’s still there (I guess they’d indicate it’s there if it were), there used to be a Hard-Off in this Book-Off in Machida as well, a few floors up.

    Either that or I’m confusing this outlet and another nearby.

    I saw three Gamecubes with a set of controllers, AV adapters, power and even one with a modem for the modern-day equivalent of just $20 in May 2008. If I didn’t need to feed my face that day before and during the long flight home, and my bags not already overweight and overfull, I’d have grabbed a set :l

    • Avatar

      Cool! The only thing I’ve ever seen paired with a Book off was a Hobby off (it was a couple floors up, like you said). I think the “off” chain stores are fantastic, though.

  2. Avatar
    Joe Masashi June 5, 2013

    Where was it? I went to the one in akiba but it was really small and just full of guitar and audio electronics.

  3. Avatar
    pamelalevene July 18, 2015

    I just watched a Begin Japanology programme on waste and recycling. They visited an enormous place in Machida that rescued all sorts of thrown away items, restored them and then sold them in their shop (in the same building) at what seemed to be incredible prices. Does anyone know this place? They said it was in a suburb of Tokyo. the credit at the end said Machida Eco Life Suishin Kashia but googling it hasn’t produced anything in English ( I guess it is there somewhere but in Japanese!) (I’ll be in Japan in November and would love to buy recycled gifts to bring home)

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