When is the best time to go to Hackerfarm?

We have our open house on the last weekend of the month. Technically this is the only time outsiders can visit unless they have made an appointment with one of us who will take care of them. We get a lot of requests to visit hackerfarm from visitors but granting all the requests while maintaining our individual work schedules and project schedules became difficult. We created the open house as a way to batch all the visits at one time, and it also gives us a chance to make an event out of it. We hold multiple workshops, tours, and field work days. There are usually talks going on that weekend at the nearby cafe and we have a big BBQ either at hackerfarm or at the cafe. So the best time to visit would be during the open house.

What should I bring?

If you have your own sleeping bag, we recommend bringing that. If you’re coming in the winter, you will definitely need it. We also keep bedding at hackerfarm, so if you don’t have a sleeping bag, don’t let that stop you. If a lot of people are visiting, we might not have enough though. Check with us just in case.

Definitely bring your own hygiene gear, ie: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. We don’t provide that generally but there may be some available. If you don’t have it, you can also buy it at the local grocery.

There is a nearby grocery so you don’t need to bring food or drinks. If you have special dietary requirements though, then perhaps prepare for that ahead of time.

Bring clothes and shoes you aren’t afraid of getting dirty, especially if you will be doing any field work. We have a laundry machine at hackerfarm also, but you will need to air dry so make sure you have enough time to do that.

We have WiFi so bring your own laptop if you want to do computer work or will attend one of the workshops requiring a computer.

If you want to bring a pet, please check with us beforehand. Generally dogs will need to stay on-leash for their safety and the safety of our cats.

My visit doesn’t coincide with the open house. Can I still come and check it out?

Contact us and let us know what you’re interested to see, do, or talk about. If it’s something that we’re interested to collaborate on, then someone may volunteer and take responsibility (ie: pick you up from the station, show you around, help you get settled, etc). We also get people asking to visit that have no context for collaboration, looking for a cheap place to stay during their holiday visit in Japan, or call themselves a digital nomad. For those people, please just come during the open house.

Is there food available at hackerfarm?

There is a grocery called Sushi-ya about 3 minutes walking distance from hackerfarm. It’s a small, local grocery store but they cover all basic needs. There are larger grocery stores in the area like Odoya and Beisia, but require a car or bus to get there.

Is WiFi available?

Yes. It’s probably the first thing we get hooked up when we get a new place, sometimes even before electricity.

Is cellular service available?

Yes, Docomo has the best coverage in the area and we can get LTE service at and around hackerfarm.

I’m visiting and need a cheap mobile phone plan with no contract.

You will need an unlocked phone called SIM-Free or SIM-lock Free in Japan. Japan de-regulated cellular phone service where many resellers now exist called MVNOs and re-sell Docomo and Softbank service. We recommend IIJ-Mio. For 900 yen/mo, you get 4 GB of data. At hackerfarm we have Wi-Fi at all our facilities with no data caps (don’t get any crazy ideas though) so 4 GB of data should be plenty in one month. It is a subscription service, but you can cancel the contract anytime.

Note: There is a 3,000 yen registration fee initially so it only makes sense if you stay in Japan more than one month.

Where can I get an unlocked phone?

We recommend Janpara, aka Junk Paradise. You can order it online and can often find slightly older phones for ~4,000 to 10,000 yen ($40 to $100 USD). Make sure it’s SIM-Free or SIM-lock Free. As a point of reference, a Google Nexus 5 phone, which I currently use but is slightly dated, is 3,580 yen  ($35 USD) currently from Janpara. I actually just purchased a new LCD for mine to replace the broken one and I now realize I should have just bought an extra phone instead…

Where can I get a cheap laptop?

Akihabara is the place to go. There used to be a lot of shops you could go junk diving but a lot of our favorite shops shut down. That said, Shop Inverse is hands down the best place to find a junky laptop. Typical prices you’d pay for an Intel Core i5 laptop, 2nd or 3rd generation, would be around 5,000 to 8,000 yen ($50 to $80 USD). We typically only get Lenovo Thinkpads because they’re built like tanks and we can get replacement parts or broken ones that we strip down for repair parts. But if you’re not picky about the type of laptop, you can often find a nice laptop for under 10,000 yen ($100 USD).

They have stations in the back where you can plug them in and test them to see if they power on and get to the POST and BIOS. If you can get there, the laptop is generally ready for business. The laptops often don’t have hard drives and little RAM. You can pick up used laptop drives and RAM in there also. A 250 GB hard drive is around 1,000 yen ($10 USD) and a 4GB SO-DIMM of RAM is around 1,500 yen ($15). You will also need to pick up a charger that works with your laptop. Depending on how much you deck it out, it’s possible to have a decent laptop for under 10,000 yen. For us, it’s often the case that we spend more on RAM than the cost of the computer but the value of your laptop will often far outweigh the money you put into it.

Where can I get a cheap desktop?

Shop Inverse (see above) is the place to go also. If you just want a cheap computer and don’t care that much about performance, then its better to just get a laptop. Total cost is cheaper since you don’t need a display, it has a smaller footprint in the house, is portable, and has it’s own UPS (the battery).

For us, the main reason we get desktops is because we plan to use them for some heavy lifting. Desktops generally fit multiple storage drives, usually have 4 RAM slots with a max of 32 GB of RAM, and desktop processors usually are more powerful than laptop processors for the same make and model.When we have a project that requires a lot of RAM like FPGA compiling, video editing or using the Adobe suite, 3D CAD, or heavy processing with large data sets, we’ll generally throw a desktop at it. The cost of the desktops are fairly comparable to laptops.

A Dell Optiplex 7020 with 4th gen Intel Core i5, a max RAM of 32 GB, and 500 GB HDD runs around 12,000 yen. You’ll definitely spend more on RAM than the cost of the desktop if you want to take it to 32 GB. A single 8 GB stick of used RAM costs about 4,000 yen so you’d need to pay 16,000 yen to max out the system. But at 32 GB, it will be quite a monster. When you get a desktop, you also need to purchase a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You can find used HD monitors around Akihabara for around 5,000 yen, and mouse and keyboard are everywhere for almost nothing.

Are there medical facilites near hackerfarm?

Yes, there are actually two hospitals. Kokuho Clinic is close by and is more of a local hospital and Kameda Hospital is about 20 mins away by car but is one of the best hospitals in Japan. Even if you don’t have medical insurance, it’s quite cheap to see a doctor and get medicine, especially if you’re coming from the US. In the US, I usually need to be on my death bed before I’d even consider going to see a doctor.

Is hackerfarm by the beach?

Yes, Maebara Beach is about 20 mins away by car or 30 mins by bus and is a Pacific Ocean beach with surfing and bodyboarding. We have our Friday Beach Workdays there, and often at Nonkey’s Beach Cafe which is a place we highly recommend. It’s on the 2nd floor almost right on the sand and you can sit and people watch while you pretend to work. They serve beers as well as non-alcoholic drinks and it’s a wonderful way to hang out at the beach for a whole day. On the other side is Tokyo Bay which is also about 20 mins away from hackerfarm. Since it’s a bay, there isn’t as much beach stuff to do, but they have great seafood restaurants like Banya there.

Are there onsen (public baths) near hackerfarm?

There are a few, but we recommend Satomi no Yu in Tateyama which is about 40 mins from hackerfarm. It’s a day spa that costs about 1100 yen ($11 USD) for the whole day on weekdays and 1500 yen ($15 USD) on weekends. They feature multiple hot baths, jet baths, hot stone beds, massage chairs, and massage. You can also pay 2,500 yen extra ($25) and get a private room for you and your party with its own private hot spring bath. They have a restaurant inside so you pretty much don’t have to leave at all. If you go, we recommend bringing your laptop or a good book and make a complete day out of it. We are planning the “Hackerfarm Spa Work Days” there in the future so we’ll have another place we can pretend to work.

I’m allergic to cats or I don’t like them. Can I stay somewhere where there are no cats?

We keep cats at hackerfarm and pretty much every house to keep it clear of rodents which are abundant in the countryside. Unfortunately, the cats have a habit of sleeping on resident’s stomachs at night. If you don’t like cats, let us know beforehand so we can see if there are alternative accomodations. If you want to have a residency at hackerfarm though, cats will probably be a part of the experience.

Can I go on the Hackerfarm Shenzhen Tour?

The Hackerfarm Shenzhen Tour started out as a way to teach people thinking of moving to hackerfarm how to start their own companies either doing import/export or manufacturing their own designs and selling them. It’s a labor of love, since being a tour guide, especially in China, really sucks.

Since we started it, we get a lot of interest from people that want to go on the tour. We limit the spaces, often to ten spots, and priority is for people who are directly part of hackerfarm and have a direct need to move their business beyond prototyping and start exploring mass production.

Beyond that, there’s a question of how you can contribute to the overall experience, ie: do you already have your own company, have a pressing need to manufacture, and would like to give talks and advice to people at an earlier stage than you during the tour? Can you provide connections to get interesting factory tours we might not otherwise be able to get? Can you speak fluent Chinese and English? We also try and balance the group evenly between males and females since 99% of the people that ask us if they can come are dudes and 99% of the community of people we know manufacturing in China are dudes. We’d like to do an all-female Hackerfarm Shenzhen Tour in the future so please stay tuned.