Retro desires

Alarm clocks have few redeeming features. For 90% of their existence, they hang out and do nothing. A leech on your bedside's hospitality. They sit and wait until their owner and rightful lord and master is in a deep slumber of blissful relaxation after a hard day paying for their electricity.

Then they strike.

The only justice is that they frequently get clonked on the head.

The worst alarm clocks, in my opinion, are the ones that just beep. Not only is this particularly lazy on behalf of the object you have given houseroom to but it's downright obnoxious. I am forced to respond to such obsessive compulsive behaviour instantly rather a slower contemplation of what life might be like outside these blankets.

While it is rare that such considerations lead to acts of enthused energy, I still prefer to listen to the radio in the mornings. I therefore wanted to buy a radio alarm clock of the type I'd been using ... well ... all my life. I'm sure you know the idea; illuminated clock on the front, alarm and FM radio tuner controlled by buttons on the top.

The electrical system in Japan is similar to that in Canada, but their FM radio station frequencies are not, running from 76 - 90 MHz rather than 88 - 108 MHz. This meant that my previous North American-bought clock would be a paperweight, although not as illegal as USA baby monitors which can result in a year's gaol sentence until your offspring is too old to require such a device.

I assumed that replacing my cheap radio alarm clock would be a simple, easy chore.

I was wrong.

It is not acceptable to purchase a radio alarm clock in Japan.

Technically, it is possible to find these items. After weeks of searching, I located the appropriate shelf in a five story electrical store. They even had an exact replica on the one I had in Canada, purchased only a year previously. The problem was I obviously was not supposed to want to buy it. These clocks were in the 'retro' section of the shop. The area where grandpa drags the kids to show them was life was like in "dem good ole times".

Don't believe me? Allow me to put it in perspective:

On the same shelf, about six inches further along, were tape recorders.

Remember those? No, half of you don't. Consider your childhood twice the length of mine. 

One tape player (middle photo) was of the walkman type; the must-have accessory when I went on a school trip to Paris in 1992. The other (right) was a replica of the type I connected up to a computer when I was five to load games. The process took forever (double that by five year old standards) and frequently failed half-way through a load. Heaven help you if the tape needed to be reversed during that process. I probably played each game I owned twice before turning six and I was seriously into that computer.

So there I was, wanting to buy this radio alarm clock, but feeling far too young to be seen taking it to the cashier. Not only would the purchase be an embarrassment, but clearly the clock would become a forbidden never-to-be-discussed item in my apartment. Like the insane ex-wife locked in the west wing. I could see my future magical relationship with a Keanu Reeves look-a-like ending with:

"I'm sorry Elizabeth... I really like you... but ... we could never build a joint home together. First you want a radio alarm clock, then you'll talk of hunting mammoths and eating our young."


I looked around. Radios in general were apparently perfectly acceptable. There were many either on their own or part of elaborate stereo systems, but none with a clock that could balance on the sole chair --currently doubling as a bedside table-- in my apartment. Judging by the dizzying varieties available, the alternative you were supposed to buy was an iPod dock. Since I had an iPod, in theory this was a match. However, most of my music is bouncy upbeat tunes that makes me run into work. If that blared out at me first thing in the morning, I'd probably break my ankle jiving to the bathroom.

It was all too confusing. I went home, closed all the curtains and flipped open my computer. Alone in the dark, I browsed an online shopping site and I found a radio alarm clock that included an iPod dock (top left photo). If anyone asks, I did not scroll through twenty pages to find one that included a radio.