10 Mar 2017 in Discover Japan
From virtual reality immersion to self-editing photo booths, Japan’s game centres offer something for everyone. Fancy trying your hand?
Amusement arcades may be a fading force in many Western countries, but in Japan they’re still a vibrant part of popular culture. And gaming is not just a pastime for young men: the wide range of activities on offer attracts a diverse crowd.
There are around 15,000 game centres in Japan, with the biggest complexes occupying multiple floors in major cities. You’ll find a mind-blowing range of video and simulation games, covering everything from romance and racing to music and dance. And if your image of video games is Pac-Man and joysticks, think again!
Hi-tech virtual reality headsets and motion-capture technology can make this an immersive experience. Many gaming companies even use arcades to test new innovations before taking them mainstream on home consoles.
Other popular arcade activities include virtual horse betting and claw machines or “UFO Catchers”, where you guide a crane to try and win a stuffed animal. Photo booths, known as purikura, are another major draw. They may look like standard passport photo booths, but purikura offer an interactive experience: once you’ve snapped your photo, draw on it, add lipstick, change your hair colour or enlarge your eyes to look like an anime character.
Finally, the game of pachinko is so popular it fills entire neon-flashing parlours. To the outsider, it’s a baffling game. You propel small silver ball bearings onto a vertical pinball board and, if they fall into the winning hole enough times, you hit the jackpot – which means you win more silver balls! Amass enough balls and you win prizes.
Tokyo’s Akihabara district is a gamer’s utopia, offering everything from cutting-edge and retro arcade halls to expansive pachinko parlours. Just a short walk from HOSHINOYA Tokyo, it’s a great place to observe Japan’s gaming culture – and try your hand. So, while you’ll discover the classic hospitality of a high-end ryokan at your hotel, you’ll be able to discover another side of Japanese culture during your stay. And who knows, you may just walk away with a stuffed animal as a souvenir.