TOKYO--Yodobashi Camera is a massive electronics complex in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district. You walk through the neon-lined entrance into a maze of computer, smartphone, TV, and other displays. It's designed to overwhelm.
The plastic shines under the glare of fluorescent lights. Add to that fumes from the bus depot outside, yelling salesmen, and a looped company jingle on the PA system based on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
It's a sensory assault.
Worlds away from the sedate Apple store across town in Ginza, Yodobashi began as a scrappy Shinjuku photo gear vendor in 1960. Now it has outlets throughout Japan, and sold a healthy $8.2 billion in the 12 months to April 2012.
We all know that Japanese electronics is a has-been story, with consumer giants like Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp poised to join brands like Akai and Sanyo in the dustbin of history.
But many of these brands still reign supreme at Yodobashi and other Japanese retailers, partly because they're on everything from washing machines to faxes. Yes, Japan is still nuts about faxes.
Indeed, there are still plenty of compelling gadgets and goods at Yodobashi, especially upstairs in the lifestyle and beauty products section. For the foreign shopper, it's also an opportunity to see some unusual goods.
Japan is often described as a technological Galapagos, giving rise to complex, highly evolved gizmos that can't survive overseas.
Yodobashi certainly has its share of highly engineered toilet seats and smartphones, beautifully designed air purifiers, and myriad puzzling gadgets that can be unrecognizable to outsiders.
There are mini refrigerators for tiny Tokyo apartments, deluxe rice cookers that cost $2,000, and gas stovetops with drawers for roasting fish.
Some of the more inscrutable products are designed to change the shape of your face, enrich your skin, or give you symmetrically trimmed eyebrows. From facial massagers to smartphones, Yodobashi's got you covered.
Check out some pics from the shiny stuff on sale in the gallery below.