Buying a Computer in Japan
I came home under the influence one night and I tried to start my computer or laptop to be exact. Unfortunately, it couldn’t start. I’ve been having this problem a few times now, but eventually it would somehow start up again with no problems. However, the night it wasn’t working happened to be a crucial moment in my life: Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors. Go Nets! Due to being under the influence and the frustration from my broken computer, I stupidly ended up punching my laptop screen. Although the computer was unable to start up already, there still may have been a small chance that it could possibly start up. Unfortunately, I completely cancelled out that small chance by destroying the laptop screen. With no laptop in my life, I needed to buy a new computer in Japan right away.
The first thing I did was do some research. Luckily, my girlfriend still had a working laptop (although I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with wifi access, I would rather use a PC). So I go online and google “buying a computer in Japan” and I find out that there’s some problems that I might be faced with when buying a computer in Japan.
Problems with Buying a Computer in Japan
Computers sold in Japan usually come with a Japanese OS and Japanese keyboard. By Japanese OS, I mean that the operating system (Windows 7, 8, etc.) will be in Japanese. And by Japanese keyboard, I mean that the keyboard will be in a Japanese format. Turns out Japanese keyboards and keyboards in the rest of the world are different. Japanese keyboards have extra keys and the layout is different. Although the Japanese keyboards do have English, such as letters, written on it, just the fact that the layout is different will cause me some problems when I’m typing. I type pretty fast, but if the layout of the keyboard is different from what I’m used to, I’ll be typing the wrong keys. I have also heard that some stores offer the option of an English OS and/or keyboard, but it will end up costing a lot more. Another option is to buy a Mac from Apple, which has the option of having an English OS and keyboard. But Macs are just so expensive and I’m more of the PC user. So having a Japanese OS and keyboard might be one of the problems I’ll be faced with when buying a computer in Japan.
Another problem I might run into is the language barrier. Most of us know that the Japanese aren’t really good at speaking English, let alone speaking about technical stuff such as computers. Luckily, my girlfriend speaks Japanese and this was truly helpful in buying a computer in Japan. However, not everyone will have this option. But do not worry, I believe it’s still possible even without knowing any Japanese. I’ll explain more later.
Buying a Computer in Japan Online
If you want to buy a computer in Japan online, I recommend going kakaku.com.The website is in Japanese, but do not let it scare you. I’ll give you a brief guide on how to use it. So after going to the site, click on the link that says “パソコン”. It has a picture of a laptop or notebook to the left. Then scroll down a little and you’ll see icons of desktops, laptops, PDAs, and so on. Click on the laptop icon (or whatever you want to buy) and then you’ll see a list of the top 5 sellers. Below it is a list of all the laptops they have. Now, on the left you’ll see a list of filters which is all in English. Choose your brand, OS, CPU, display size, color, price range, and so on. After you find one you like, click on it and you’ll see the product description. For some products, you’ll see a list of prices offered by different vendors ranked from cheapest to most expensive. It’ll show you where the product is and what services they offer, such as shipping or in-store pick up. I won’t go deep into this, because you’ll probably need a translator for further information.
Buying a Computer in Japan Offline
Most people recommended going to Akihabara to buy a computer. As you may already know, Akihabara is famous for electronics. I’ve also read that there are some stores who have English speaking personnel. However, since I live near Shinjuku, and I didn’t want to go that far to buy a computer, I decided to just shop at Shinjuku. I had two places in mind, Bic Camera and Yodabashi Camera, two of the largest electronic retail stores in Japan. First I went to Bic Camera. I went to the floor where the computers were located and started looking around. They divided the sections by laptops and desktops. It further broke down into brand names. There were also some computers on sale that were placed in the front of the computer section. I had a game plan in mind already, so I didn’t need to talk to the attendants. Each computer model has a paper with a description of the computer details which are all in English, well at least the necessary parts such as the OS, CPU, RAM, etc. I couldn’t find something to my liking so I decided not to buy anything at Bic Camera. One thing I did realize is that computers in Japan are expensive! I thought it would of been cheaper, but I think computers in Japan are actually more expensive than they are in the United States. Anyway, the next stop was Yodobashi Camera so here we go.
At Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku, the computer area was on the first floor. The layout of the computers was similar to that of Bic Camera, where computers were categorized by desktops and laptops, and then by brand names. The prices here were expensive as well, but I think it was actually a little cheaper here than Bic Camera.
The model I wanted had three different pricings. This was because they had already planned out three different options you could choose from, of course the one with better parts being more expensive. However, I think this was done for the customers, who didn’t know much about computers, so that they could easily buy from just choosing 1 of the 3 options. I’m not a computer enthusiast, but I at least know some of the basics. So when I was ready, I called for an attendant and told them I wanted this model and this option. I figured I’d choose the cheapest option and work from there. What I mean by that is that you can customize your computer like you would if you were to buy from Dell online. So pretty much this is the part where my girlfriend helped, well, for the non-computer related parts. We needed to sign up for a points card if we wanted to take advantage of a sale that was going on and so we did or I should say my girlfriend did. So for the computer, the attendant handed me a list of customization options. Pretty much I could choose the CPU, OS, keyboard, amount of RAM, disk drive, display, etc. Each option also had the pricing to the side. It was exactly like buying a computer on the Dell website, but on paper. I wish they had this sheet out on display to begin with. Anyway, so yes I did mention OS and keyboard. I was able to choose an English OS and keyboard. The English OS didn’t cost extra but the English keyboard required an extra 1,080 yen. Not too bad in my opinion. But keep in mind, I chose Windows 8.1. I’m not sure if the English OS is available for previous versions of Windows. So that eliminated the OS and keyboard problem. I originally started from a price of about 63,000 yen and ended up with a price of about 82,000 yen. But because my girlfriend signed up for the point card, we were able to take advantage of the sale and the price was reduced by about 10,000 yen. So my total came out to about 72,000 yen or about 720 dollars. Tax and shipping was already included. I tried asking if foreigners get a discount because I read that some places offered it, but the attendant said there wasn’t. Oh well. Speaking of foreigners, I did overhear a female attendant speaking English to a few foreigners. Her English wasn’t good, but just the fact that she was speaking English means that maybe this could eliminate the second problem of buying a computer in Japan. After we were done with that part, the attendant read us some of the guidelines such as warranty and returns (or at least that’s what I think it was since my Japanese isn’t that good). Finally, the attendant took us to the cashier where I payed with my Chase Sapphire credit card which has no foreign transaction fees. Woohoo!
Okay, this was probably the biggest setback. The attendant told us that shipping could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks. What the f***. I was seriously contemplating about just stopping right then and there, and this was after I was done customizing the order with the attendant. My computer broke so I needed a computer right away, which is one of the reasons why I went in person to buy a laptop from the store. If this was the case, I should of just bought a laptop online (or maybe online wouldn’t even have made a difference because that might of took 2-4 weeks to ship as well)! I understand that because I am customizing my computer, it’ll take some time, but not 2-4 weeks time! Dell only takes at most 1 week. Argh, this is going to be the hardest 2-4 weeks of my life.
In conclusion, buying a computer in Japan is not that hard and does not require the ability to speak Japanese. Maybe in the past, things were different which made it difficult to buy a computer in Japan due to the OS and keyboard. But I think now, the bigger stores will have the option of choosing an English OS and keyboard. Also, the bigger stores should also have staff who could speak enough English to help you with your purchase. The key thing to keep in mind is that shipping can take up to 4 weeks. So if your computer is broken or if you didn’t bring one to Japan, you’ll have to figure out something to do during those 4 weeks that you’re without a computer. I’ve listed the address of Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku below. I hope my experience of buying a computer in Japan will help those who are planning to buy a computer in Japan. Good luck.
EDIT (May 9, 2014): My laptop finally arrived. After waiting for a little over 2 weeks, it was finally shipped to my address in a box. Time to get busy! I already feel rejuvenated.
Bic Camera, Shinjuku
1-5-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023
Yodobashi Camera, Shinjuku
1-11-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023