The 13 Coolest Japanese Arcades You Have to See to Believe
Your local arcade may have boarded up its doors a few decades ago, but in Japan, arcades are as popular as ever. It should come as no surprise you can find some of the coolest arcades in the world in Tokyo, a gamer’s paradise. With its neon lights, endless sprawl, countless nooks and crannies, and chaotic crowds, Tokyo itself feels a bit like a video game.
Though Tokyo is the center of Japan's arcade culture, most Japanese towns have at least one arcade, known as a gesen (a shortened, Japanized version of the English phrase “game center”). After a long day at work or school, many head to the arcade to play a game of pachinko, take pictures with friends at the photo sticker booth, or reclaim their high score at a favorite game.Whether you’re looking for a casino-sized arcade with vibrant lights and the latest games or a quiet space housing vintage favorites like Pacman, Japan is your go-to place for some of the best arcades in the world.
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Anata no Warehouse, KawasakiPhoto: Ken OHYAMA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Possibly one of the most unique arcades in the world, Anata no Warehouse (Your Warehouse), in Kawasaki, Japan, was designed to look like Kowloon Walled City, a once heavily populated slum in Hong Kong. To get to the games, you need to cross over a body of neon sludge via a dodgy stone path. Everything from the bathrooms to the chicken snack shack is weathered, grimy, and dimly lit.The only pristine things here are the games, which give off an unearthly glow in this Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque landscape. Unlike most arcades, Warehouse is 18-and-over only, probably because of its nightmare-inducing vibe. Check out this extensive walk through video for an idea.
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Taito Station, TokyoPhoto: Tomi Mäkitalo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Like many game centers in Japan, Taito Station has photo sticker booths. But not just any photo sticker booths. Taito Station photo sticker booths take it to the next level.
Maybe you've seen a photo sticker booth in your local mall; they allow users to decorate pictures and manipulate their appearance. You can change your hair color or enlarge your eyes to make yourself look like an anime character. The unique thing about the photo sticker booths in Taito Station is, they have cosplay costumes users can pose in for free.Looking for a video? Got you covered.
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Tokyo Joypolis, TokyoPhoto: DocChewbacca / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Maybe the largest gesen in Japan, Tokyo Joypolis is an arcade theme park, complete with a roller coaster and haunted house. There are several Joypolis locations in Japan, with Tokyo being the flagship branch. Plan to spend an entire day here, enjoying 3D games and video game themed rides.Wanna see more? Check out a Sega tour of the place.
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Sega GiGO, TokyoPhoto: Tristan Ferne / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
One of the many multi-story arcades in Tokyo, Sega GiGO has the honor of housing the first Pokémon arcade game ever. The first two floors are filled with rows and rows of claw games and capsule toy dispensers. Japan takes toy dispensers to a new level. Known as gashapons, many of these dispensers carry high-quality collectible toys from popular anime and video games.
The name gashapon is a portmanteau of onamonapia - "gacha" is the sound the claw makes, "pon" is the sound the prize makes as it drops into the exit chute.
Want to check it out? Problem solved.
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Tokyo Leisure Land, Tokyo
No, Tokyo Leisure Land isn’t retiree housing. That said, this five-story building has a mellower vibe than many other arcades in Akihabra; it even has a cheery rainbow gracing its entryway. Point of interest– the arcade has an entire floor dedicated to music games. Make sure not to confuse it with Tokyo Leisureland, a massive game compound and amusement park on Odaiba Island.To see the Rainbow facade for yourself, scope this video.
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Hirose Entertainment Yard, TokyoVideo: YouTube
Hirose Entertainment Yard, or HEY as it’s more commonly known, is one of the most recommended arcades in Japan. Each level in this five-story arcade has a different theme. The first floor is comprised of crane games, the second floor has shooters, the third has old school games, the fourth has fighting games, and the fifth floor has new and Japan-exclusive games. So if you're just in town for a few days, head to that fifth floor.Check out Team Spooky's walk through to get a feel for HEY.