Shopping: Alps-Do Camera (Last Day)

Hello, everybody! It is with profound sadness that I bring you the news that the best camera shop in Japan has closed. This shop has been an institution for 9 decades, pre-dating and surviving the war, even. Times were hard, the corona issue has been harsh to nearly-all businesses. Majority of mom-and-pop shops and medium-sized enterprises found it difficult to cope, that and the problem of nobody wanting to take-over the family business forced lots of long-standing shops to close. It’s just not sustainable. Today, I’ll guide you through this shop’s last days and through its last business hour.

For many, Alps-Do Camera (カメラのアルプス堂) is a familiar place, many of my friends, local and abroad found their best bargain here. I consider this place to be the best camera shop in Japan because of their service, price and selection. I was a regular here, at one point visiting the shop several times a day when I was working at the area. This shop helped me appreciate classic photography gear, it helped inspire me to build this blog and nurtured what I would call a “healthy addiction” to restore junk equipment to their former glory. Many people called this shop their favorite and the people here were considered friends to the regular customers.

This is the last time I will be walking through this junction with a purpose. I would meet with my wife or friends at this shop since I see to it that I visit it at least once-a-week. For many, this was a routine, a ritual. For those of you who haven’t seen or known this amazing shop, read my article about Alps-Do Camera in its better days before you proceed.

I still remember when I brought my child here who was then merely a few weeks’ old. The staff were familiar with her as they watched her grow into a young lady. There are many stories of the same nature throughout the years this shop has been operating. You won’t hear the same things being said for big names in online businesses since all you interact with is the computer. I could not imagine shopping like this since interacting with an actual person is important in building trust. I grew up at a time without the internet, your order has to be taken personally or by phone and fax. This means that we’d often become familiar with the other person at the other-end of the line.

This was how it looked like at the last hour of the shop. It was depressing to think that I would come back here and find another shop in its place. Who knows what sort of business will take its place? A meaningless shop selling fashionable trinkets to young people? What a shame!

(Click to enlarge)

This was how the shop looked it a few weeks ago. The displays were almost empty and everything was being sold for 30% off just to get all of the things out. I bought whatever I could with whatever money I had. Many people got what they wanted for a steal.

(Click to enlarge)

This was how it looked like at the last day, there was nothing inside. I wasn’t used to seeing the shop like this. It was full of energy, customers and wares. In fact, the shop has been nearly-void of anything for weeks now, the shop owner just kept the shop open to keep his loyal staff on the payroll. For him, they were his family, too. Do you think a CEO of a big corporation would do the same?

This was how the beloved junk corner looked like. I found many treasures here, it’s depressing to see it devoid of anything. Just a few months ago this corner of the shop was brimming with used equipment.

This is the last goodbye. Thank you for all the great deals and memories, the knowledge, lore and friendship. Thank you for helping inspire me to create this blog and help share the love of classic photography gear. Thank you for making 1/3 of my apartment a warehouse of restored camera gear. I’ll miss this shop, Shinjuku will never be the same again.

Thank you all for reading this depressing post. I hope that this article helps us realize the truth of impermanence. We take the mom-and-pop shops for granted, we ask for discounts and treat their staff poorly but they serve an important purpose for the community. They aren’t just businesses, they’re part of the community where people meet and exchange ideas. Please go to your little hole-in-the-wall camera shops and support the the best you could for you will never know when will finally close and leave a big hole in your heart. Thank you for reading this post. Ric.

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country’s name or other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bernardo paz
    Aug 31, 2020 @ 17:10:06

    You have been able to live it and now you can tell it.
    Life makes its way
    big hug


  2. Matt
    Sep 01, 2020 @ 09:43:13

    Hey Ric, very sad to see.
    I’m glad I was able to visit this shop on both my last two trips to Japan, from Sydney, Australia.
    I bought a nice Nikon F100 and some lenses for my Mamiya Super 23.
    Not to mention a delightful Nicca Type IIIs from the junk bin (that you convinced me to buy)!
    Thanks for the article.


  3. Warren
    Sep 11, 2020 @ 07:03:41

    Sad. Another victim of the China Virus. The Chinese have a lot to answer for!


  4. SEN
    Oct 08, 2020 @ 15:37:01

    Your article is very well written and pays homage to a very wonderful shop. Your writings are very nice and has prompted me to appreciate photography even more. I have visited this shop many times (after reading your article) and thank you for treasuring their memory. You are A1 in my book. Please keep up the good work. Regards . Sen


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