“It was like stepping into a lost world,”
November 21, 2019 8:04 AM   Subscribe

The Final Days of Anata No Warehouse, Japan's Most Incredible Arcade [Kotaku] “Japan is known for its video arcades, from the tiniest little collections of claw games in basements to entire high-rise buildings packed with floor after floor of video amusements. On Sunday, November 17, perhaps the most elaborately themed arcade in the country, Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki, will shut down for reasons that remain unexplained. The five-story mega-arcade was the brainchild of Taishiro Hoshino, a set designer for kabuki theater, who opened it in 2009. Far from a simple collection of games, Anata no Warehouse (“Your Warehouse”) was a recreation of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong’s New Territories, a gravity-defying mega-slum that had captured the world’s imagination until it was torn down in 1993. [...] Its reincarnation as a Japanese arcade was also a nod to its role as a place of community.”

• Inside Game Center Mikado: One of the Best Arcades in Japan [IGN]
“Arcades may have died out in much of the world, but in Japan, arcades are still a huge part of gaming culture. One of my favourites is Game Center Mikado in Tokyo – it’s a great place to dive into legendary fighting games and retro classics in a relaxed atmosphere. Mikado is a couple of stops from Shinjuku in Takadanobaba, a district that’s famous for being the place that Osamu Tezuka chose for his iconic character Astro Boy to be “born.” JR trains play the theme song when they stop at this station, and there are a couple of large murals of Tezuka’s work outside the station. Game Center Mikado is just around the corner, on an unassuming alley that runs along the train line. This two storey arcade has been one of the central locations for Tokyo’s fighting game scene for more than a decade (it was opened in 2006 but has been in its current location since 2009), playing host to regular tournaments and known for high level play. It’s also – unlike the many Taito Game Stations and Club SEGAs around the country - privately owned.”
• Game not over: Japan's amusement arcades tap community spirit to stay relevant [Japan Times]
“Arcades occupy a special place in the history of Japanese popular culture. From humble postwar beginnings as bowling alleys and amusement areas on top of department store roofs, arcade culture exploded in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders. The iconic title gave the Japanese public its first real taste of video games and sparked a nationwide craze, with dedicated “Invader house” establishments popping up all over the country. One urban legend even claims that the game’s popularity triggered a national shortage of ¥100 coins. Arcades in Japan thrived throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, when shooting games such as Defender and Galaxian, then fighting games like the epochal Street Fighter II, captivated the nation’s youth and horrified worried parents. Arcades had acquired a reputation for being dingy, intimidating places where gangs of delinquents would hang around getting up to no good. For many young people, however, they were places of exotic wonder.”
• Game on: why Japan’s arcades are still winning [Financial Times]
“At their mid-1980s peak, there were 44,000 geemu sentaa (“game centres”) across Japan; by March 2016, according to the Japan Amusement Industry Association, there were just 4,856 registered with the authorities, and an estimated 9,000 tiddlers with fewer than 50 machines apiece. And yet, Japan’s arcades have survived as quirks of corporate pride and cultural habit. Although they now make the vast majority of their revenues from console games, Japanese games companies continue to operate arcades and build products for them. “You can see how it has worked as long as it has,” says Brian Ashcraft, author of Arcade Mania! The Turbo-Charged World of Japan’s Game Centres. “Companies like Sega, Taito and Namco believe that making arcade games is a big part of their corporate identity. They think, ‘This is how we started out, so this is what we’ll keep doing.’ Arcades in Japan have never been suddenly and totally removed from the urban landscape like they were in the US or Europe.” The pace of arcade-game releases has moderated from a 1990s splurge of several games a month to a 2017 sputter of a few a year. Meanwhile, the average age of gamers has matched Japan’s greying demography.”
• A bewildered, far-from-conclusive look at the state of public gaming in Tokyo [Ars Technica]
“I'm not sure how much of my life has included dreams of traveling to Japan, but I know it's a majority. I'm a child of the '80s who grew up pledging allegiance to Japanese video game makers while drooling over the arcade and console games that that nation not only produced, but often had early or exclusive dibs on. Some day, I told myself, I'd go to that magical place. That dream came true in October, and my two-week vacation included no shortage of time spent playing and checking out video games. As this was a vacation, however, I also made room for a lot of other fun diversions: temple and castle visits, prestigious tea-tastings, gorgeous museums, and om-nom-nomming on unbelievable food. (I've already chronicled one food-related discovery I made in Osaka.) I point that other stuff out only to clarify: this article about arcades, video game merch stores, and board game cafes is by no means a comprehensive, capital-letters State of Japanese Gaming. Instead, this is a look at what you might expect as a surface-level tourist—and it just might dispel a few notions you might have if you've never traveled there.”
posted by Fizz (5 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Great post! Going on an arcade tour of Japan has been on my bucket list for a long time.
posted by joedan at 10:59 AM on November 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

When this kind of thing closes, it spurs me to push myself when I travel to go see the intriguing things, even if I'm tired, even if it's a couple of train changes, and even when I miss one of those train changes and end up at an airport. Anata No Warehouse was exceptional and overwhelming.

It might have been the last chance I had to punch an original Streetfighter. It was definitely the only time I experienced bring your own drum sticks for Taiko Master.

I tried to enumerate the goodness in a place that I share with old friends as follows:

"We should take this into consideration when we all retire. Somebody's labor of love...
• Five floors of walled city themed goodness.
• Modern arcade games (including about every generation of sf) + 16 or so different fighters in both hard and normal difficulty settings. Highlights include one of those ultra expensive 12 mech cockpit co-op/competitive setups that were popular a decade or so ago.
• A retro floor full of cabinets running some greatest hits.
• A casino floor including a tens of seats horse betting simulation.
• The pool and darts floor. Including cozy setups of what those activities feel like when you're in someone's home."
posted by minedev at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh man, yeah, I visited this place a few years ago the last time we were out in Tokyo. At the time, by the entrance landing, they had a pressure-pad Street Fighter 1 cabinet, as well as both the original Darius (with the three-CRT-monitor-wide display) and the recent-at-the-time sequel (which used a two-16:9-monitor-wide display). The rest of it just sort of seemed to be a fairly ordinary arcade, and in retrospect, I can kind of imagine that, between Japan's arcade industry being on kind of a downward slump, and this particular arcade being set up as a novelty seemingly designed to bring in visitors from far away once, rather than as a place to appeal to locals, it was only a matter of time until they closed down.

But boy, it sure was a cool place to visit that one time, though.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:55 PM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Man. I went to Japan for my honeymoon and visited this place with my wife. It was unreal. I'm sad, but I'm glad I was there.
posted by Baldons at 1:56 AM on November 22, 2019

Ah, that's a shame - I always enjoyed visiting there. And it was just a few minutes away from my very favorite attraction in Kawasaki, Petit-Escalator, the world's shortest escalator.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:22 PM on November 22, 2019

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