I thought it would be easy in Japan, of all places, to go into a high street electrical shop and find a region-free DVD player that can handle both PAL and NTSC discs. But in every place I checked I could only find players that are NTSC only and locked to region 2, which means they wouldn’t be able to play any of my DVDs (region 1 NTSC from US/Canada, or region 2 PAL from Europe).
After a bit of Googling I found a few leads. Fastjettotokyo recommends a Scitech player from Donki, but I couldn’t find any evidence that it will play PAL discs. Lots of other sites pointed to Akihabara, so I was planning to go and have a troll around the shops there one evening after work.
Then, thanks to a tip from a Japanese colleague, I found this Pioneer DV-410V-K at Rakuten. It’s multi-region (1-5), supports PAL and NTSC, and has a USB port on the front to playback DivX, etc, from external USB media.
The ordering process wasn’t as straightforward as expected because they didn’t accept credit cards issued outside Japan (tried 2 different German ones, Visa and Mastercard), but once we got the order through using a Japanese card, delivery was within 2 working days.