Why arcades are still big in Japan

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.

Arcade video games

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.

Japanese UFO catchers

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.

Video games in Japan

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.

Photo credits :
ironypoisoning / CC BY-SA
Jim Davies / CC BY-NC-SA



4 things Japan does better

13 Dec 2017 in Discover Japan

Ever noticed how the Japanese do things differently – and often better? Discover our list of what they do best! Read more


Gion Matsuri: Kyoto’s famed month-long festival

07 Jul 2017 in Discover Japan

All July, Kyoto goes into festival mode! With giant floats, great food and sprawling street parties, Gion Matsuri is an event to put on your wish list. Read more

Umbrella design project

Wagasa, the poetic and practical Japanese umbrella

10 Aug 2016 in Discover Japan

130 million umbrellas are sold each year in Japan, or more than one per person! But these umbrellas were used in a completely different way when they first appeared in the 8th century! Discover how the Japanese are now giving a new life to these iconic objects... Read more



3 reasons to discover the town of Uji

28 Nov 2018 in Discover Japan

Never heard of Uji? It has history, literary fame and great green tea! Read more


Seijin No Hi: Japan’s Coming of Age Day

05 Jan 2018 in Discover Japan

Every January, kimono-clad young people celebrate their coming of age – in often raucous style. Discover the festivities! Read more


Higashi Chaya, Kanazawa’s authentic tea-house district

24 Feb 2017 in Discover Japan

Welcome to Higashi Chaya, a picturesque neighbourhood that's a focal point of Japanese heritage... Read more

most popular articles