Tokyo HackerSpace Hard-Off Tour

27 01 2015

Hard-Off is one of the “Off” store brands that focuses on second hand hardware. I’ve been to their sister chain, Book-Off, to buy some second hand (and cheap!) English books but never found a Hard-Off in my area. One of our members, Ed, likes to reuse old electronics, especially tube amps (he calls them “valve” amps). I really like the idea as it fits with hacking ideology: Understand how something works, fix problems, make it better… I’ve been dying to go to one of these stores and thanks to Ed, we managed to have a day long tour on 4th of January. Summary:

  • 12.5 hours.
  • 2 prefectures: Chiba-ken and Saitama-ken.
  • 4 members of THS: Ed as driver, me as navigator, Henri as photographer and Richard as “laughing-at-terrible-jokes-guy”.
  • Total of 10 Hard-Offs visited!
First shop pf the day. Ed is pointing at the "Hard-Off mobile." (Photo credit: Henri)

First shop of the day. Ed is pointing at the “Hard-Off mobile.” (Photo credit: Henri)

The reason we chose 4th of January is that the New Year Holiday lasts until January 3rd and Japanese have a custom called おおそうじ (Osouji). It’s like “spring cleaning” but it is done before new year so that they start the new year fresh and clean. It is actually a religious ritual but it also means that second hand shops will be full with new things they want to get rid of fast!

"Junk corner 50% off between January 1st and 4th" Cheap stuff even cheaper!

“Junk corner 50% off between January 1st and 4th” Cheap stuff even cheaper!

Each Hard-Off consists of 2 sections: Main display area (goods are in a better condition, in their packaging and tested) and junk area (a little worn, missing packaging and/or not tested). Our main focus was junk area but we all checked out the main section for some goods we may buy for cheap. You can find game consoles, TVs, audio equipment, musical instruments, networking equipment, laptops…

Guitars. All of them in good condition. The selection even contains some rare and expensive models.

Guitars! All of them in good condition. The selection even contains some rare and expensive models.

Junk section is really interesting. In Japan junk does not mean trash, it means stuff that the shop cannot charge full price (old equipment, stuff they have too many of, parts missing etc.) and wants to get rid off. You can get things for cheap and they usually work.

DSC_0498

You can even find old stereo reel-to-reel decks.

Most important part of the junk section is the bins. Contents are usually labeled but sometimes things get misplaced. Some stuff may be of no use, like inkjet cartridges, old mouses etc., but some of the things are really interesting. I managed to score two Via Networking VNT6656G6A40 wireless USB modules in the second shop for 500 yen each. They came with motherboard USB header connectors and U.FL to SMA adapters.

Junk bins, they are important!

Junk bins, they are important!

My navigation skills are usually real good but no sleep the night before and a hungry stomach was showing it’s effects so we stopped for some pizza after our 4th shop. You can see the mess I made after Matsudo Kogasaki shop if you look at the map at the end of this post.

Richard, Ed and myself just before entering the restaurant for all you can eat pizza! (Photo by Henri)

Richard, Ed and myself just before entering the restaurant for all you can eat pizza! (Photo credit: Henri)

The tour took 12.5 hours from the beginning if you include Ed and Henri renting the car and picking me and Richard up in front of Funabashi Station. It was a long tour but full with jokes and geek-talk.

"Hard-Off! You can even get your motorcycle here! OK, the owner is coming, move along..." (Photo credit: Henri)

“Hard-Off! You can even get your motorcycle here! OK, the owner is coming, move along…” (Photo credit: Henri)

While checking out the shops, I was amazed by the 3R culture in Japan: Refuse, Reuse and Recycle. You refuse plastic bags in shops if you have your own collapsible shopping bag. You reuse by buying second hand. And recycling trash in Japan is really well know. You can find second hand adult videos if you didn’t hear of the thing called Internet!

No, seriously All these boxes contain adult DVDs or adult games.

No, seriously! All these boxes contain adult DVDs or adult games.

Ed arranged the schedule so that the last shop we will visit closes down at 21:00. Original plan only included 8 shops but we decided to add two more (Chiba Furesupo Inage and Chiba Mihama shops) as we had some extra time. At the last shop, we were all happy as we managed to go to the limits and beyond!

Henri, me and Ed. Mission accomplished!

Henri, me and Ed. Mission accomplished! (Photo credit: Some random dude who Ed press-ganged into taking our picture.)

After dropping the car off at the rental shop the only problem was how to get the things we bought to our homes. My haul consisted of:

  • 2x Via Networking VNT6656G6A40 wireless USB modules (junk)
  • BOSS FV-100 guitar volume pedal (junk)
  • BOSS RGE-10 graphic equalizer (junk)
  • DigiTech Whammy 4th generation (nearly brand new)
  • Wacom Intuos 2 graphics tablet
  • Guitar effects case power distributor
That cart carries a big laser printer and more!

That cart carries a big laser printer and more! (Photo credit: Henri)

In the end, the tour took about 12 hours 40 minutes and we covered roughly 119 kilometers according to my GPS. It was a rewarding experience. Not only did we buy things, we also looked for new project ideas. In the end I believe it was a successful tour.

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