On a recent trip to Tokyo I made it a point to drop by Akihabara – also known as Akiba – and visit Rocket Radio, which must be the largest amateur radio store in the city. At first I had a hard time finding this shop, located west of JR Akihabara Station and sited right under the overhead tracks of the Sobu Main Line, but I was led to it by a Google map of the district.
A lot of the articles I’ve read online about Rocket Radio refer to it as a store with three floors filled with goods but today it only occupies just one, with its museum of old amateur radio sets now gone.
To a ham, Rocket Radio is an Aladdin’s cave of gear: amateur radios of all kinds from almost all of Japan’s radio manufacturers, plus antennas, cables, vehicle mounts, microphones, Morse code keys, and other accessories as well. If you happen to live in a country that doesn’t sell this kind of stuff, yes one can go gaga over what’s on display.
It’s very easy to succumb to temptation and buy everything in sight, or at least make an impulse purchase and buy that rig you’ve always wanted to own, but keep these pieces of advice in mind before making that purchase:
1. Remember that Rocket Radio primarily caters to the Japanese market. Many consequences flow from this fact, and one of them is that the rigs sold here are most likely configured to transmit only on those portions of the amateur radio bands authorized by Japanese law. For example, if you want to buy a radio for 2 meter work, it will probably only transmit between 144 to 146 MHz. At any rate, you can ask the store staff to confirm these details for you by testing the unit you want to buy.
You may also want to note that the usual warranty that comes with your purchase is only applicable in Japan.
2. The manuals supplied with the radios sold here will be in Japanese. On the other hand, English-language versions of these documents are usually available online. If it isn’t, you can ask for it directly from the manufacturers themselves.
3. If buying equipment that can be plugged directly in to an AC power source, take note that Japanese electricity is rated at 100 VAC, 50 Hz. Select a variable voltage model if available.
4. Tourists can’t avail of tax-free shopping privileges at this shop. Bummer.