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Photos: A stroll through Akihabara, gadget center of the world

While in Japan for the 2007 Tokyo auto show, we took a trip through Akihabara, Japan's world-famous district of electronics shops. Akihabara includes shops tiny and large, selling everything from computers to transistors. It's an electronics wonderland.

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Wayne Cunningham

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Once we got off the Yamanote Line train at the Akihabara station, signs pointing out the Electric town exit made it clear which way to go. In truth, you don't need much guidance, as Electric town surrounds three sides of the train station.
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On a Sunday, the city blocks off the main drag in Akihabara to cars, leaving pedestrians to stroll all over the wide street. There are a lot of people about, too, giving the district a carnival-like atmosphere.
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Narrow galleries like this cut through some of the blocks, providing store fronts for some of the smaller stores. Many of these stores sell electronic components and tools for the DIY'er, the trade that sparked the creation of this unique shopping area more than 50 years ago.
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Along with the electronics, merchandise about Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime) abounds. Many stores have floor after floor stocked with models and figures of robots and characters from manga and anime stories.
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The first electronic quarry we tracked down was this Sony Rolly, a gadget that received much advance publicity on blogs. The Rolly is a kind of robot that dances and lights up to music. Its end caps flap open and closed, while two wheels that encompass its body let it travel around.
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These colorful cameras caught our eye due to the HD sticker. You can take pictures in HD and show them on an HD-capable TV. The T70 also has smile recognition, meaning it will automatically snap the shutter when the subject of the picture smiles.
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The most recent MP3 player we ran across in Akihabara was this Panasonic SD card-based music player. It can take cards of up to 4GB and has a battery life of 80 hours. Better yet, it comes with Bluetooth 2.0, meaning it can stream music wirelessly to a Bluetooth car stereo or headphones.
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Various shops also had the new D-Dock mini stereo, which features an 80GB hard drive for storing digital music and Bluetooth capability. You can use it with the D-Snap SD950N or use its integrated iPod connector with an iPod.
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Although the Gigabeat U is available in the U.S., the Japanese version is a little different. For one, it comes in more colors, as do seemingly all Japanese electronics. The Japanese version also has an FM transmitter.
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The latest version of the Sony Walkman E series is available in Akihabara, with a storage capacity maxing out at 4GB in the NW-E016. These players have a USB plug under the end cap, and in these metallic colors look like lipsticks.
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Sony's new audio and video flash-based player comes in 2GB and 4GB versions. Although Sony claims 9.5 hours of video playback on a single charge, you can't get that much video on the S610F's flash drive.
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Among the many laptops for sale, the Sony Vaio TZ stood out for its ultra-portable size. Sure, the screen is small, but you won't break your back carrying it everywhere. Despite its size, this laptop is full-featured, with a DVD drive, 80GB hard drive, and Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
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Even smaller than the Sony Vaio TZ, the Fujitsu U8240 is an ultra-mobile PC. To get down to this size, you have to make some sacrifices, like a screen that's only 5.6 inches and a 20GB hard drive. But the computer only weighs 1.28 pounds.
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An incredible variety of phones is on display in Akihabara, and in many other shops all around Tokyo. As these phones don't work in the U.S., we can only gaze on them jealously.
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We don't know much about this phone's capabilities, but the Google screen caught our eye. If you search for the phone on Google, you will find a video demonstrating some of its features.
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This SoftBank phone, with its landscape screen and 3.6mbps data speeds, lets you access e-mail and use it as a video phone. On top of that, it has stereo speakers and a 3.2 megapixel camera. Oh how we envy the Japanese.
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Although the 912T's screen doesn't move to landscape mode, like the 912SH, it does twist around and has many of the same features.

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