I recently spent three weeks in Tokyo, and I only discovered a fraction of the city. During my trip, I spent most of my time thinking about how jealous all my friends would be if they could see the stuff I saw. Here’s a rundown of some of the cool gaming based stores, sights, and experiences that Tokyo has to offer.
I’m not going to lie, when it comes to “sights” and gaming there’s not a lot to write about. Most of the gaming related things to do in Tokyo involves shopping and actually playing games. That being said, there is definitely something unique about wandering around in a culture that adores videogames as much as Japan does.
You know what’s really cool about Tokyo? It’s the fact that you can find all the stuff you enjoy anywhere you go. Glance down a street and you’ll find an arcade, look at a billboard and it’s one of about a hundred for various games, or just watch the ads on the train that use the Animal Crossing characters to sell you something. I assume. It could also have been a public service announcement for all I know.
Expect to see other cool things in Tokyo that you’d never see in New Zealand – like Mario Kart racing through the streets of Akihabara. You’ll have to be quick though, as the swift hammer of Nintendo justice is already trying to sue the Mario Karting tours in a move that pretty much everyone saw coming.
Speaking of Nintendo, if you haven't had a chance to play with the Switch yet, most major technology stores such as Bic Camera and Sofmap will have either demos to play, or Switch consoles you can at least get your hands on. While I was there, a month prior to the launch to the Switch I could still get a feel for the console from a dummy model in most stores.
The other thing you should be looking for are the themed cafes. From Gundam, maids, and owls, to Square Enix and Capcom cafes. You can feast on food from several different franchises, including Dragon Quest Slime dumplings and Resident Evil zombie hands.
Japan loves Pokemon. We all know that. It’s not surprising then that Tokyo is a wonderland of Pokestops and Pokemon. If you’re still into Pokemon Go then I strongly encourage you to pick up a Pokemon Go Plus as soon as you can. They also only cost around the $35 - $40 NZD there, which is much cheaper than the local price of $69.99 NZD. While driving may be too fast for the GO Plus to hatch eggs and catch Pokemon, trains are perfect. They are by far the easiest way to get around Tokyo too, so it’s a win-win.
I love arcades. There honestly aren’t enough in New Zealand. After having spent a fair amount of money in arcades in Japan however, that’s probably a good thing – at least for my wallet. Almost all of Tokyo’s arcades have the same sort of layout. They are normally five to eight floors high; the first few are UFO machines (basically just a crane machine but with only two claws), the next few are arcade games, and the top floor is where you will sometimes find pachinko – Japan’s answer to gambling being illegal. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find an arcade with only adults in it. In fact, there were normally very few younger children present.
There are several well-known arcades. Taito Station is easily recognisable by the giant space invader on its side, and all the Sega arcades are bright red and white. Sega World was literally across the road from our hotel in Narita, so close that I could still get the hotel’s WiFi there.
Along with the big arcades there are a lot of hole-in-the-wall types too, though they mostly host UFO machines. My all-time favourite arcade wasn’t actually in Tokyo, but in Aeon Town in Narita. It had the best range of games over just half a floor. More than once we had to leave so a kid could play the game we were hogging.
I spent far too much money in various arcades and came out of it with little to show. It was still amazing just to see though, and there is a picture of me busting ghosts with Luigi in the arcade version of Luigi’s Mansion. It even had the vacuum cleaner weapon as your controller. Back in Narita, our final day was spent clearing out the last of our coins in an arcade.
If the idea of a theme park in a shopping mall boggles your mind, then you haven’t seen a mall as big as Sunshine City. Not far from Ikebukuro’s train station, Sunshine City boasts the Mega Pokemon Centre, a Studio Ghibli store, a hotel, an amazing selection of food, and two theme parks: NamJa Town and J World.
J-World features attractions from Jump anime, which mostly boils down to One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. Along with a series of rides, there was also a carnival with games that can win you prizes. I didn’t win anything, mainly because each game costs to play. If you are planning on hitting J-World up, be prepared to fork out some money.
If you’d rather just pay once and head on in, NamJaTown does offer a pass that gives access to most attractions. My favourite was definitely the Yo Kai Watch themed ghost town. While I didn’t do much in it, it had a definitely creepy feeling without being a full on horror experience. Also, there were a lot of restaurants in NaJamTown and pretty much all the food looked amazing.
Both NamJaTown and J-World boast virtual reality attractions. While I have no idea what was going on in NamJaTown aside from the fact that I could blast energy from my hands, I know that J-World allows you to perform a Kamehameha with Goku, and that’s awesome.
While I didn’t get to play with a lot of VR, the advertisements for it were everywhere, and Japan has obviously taken the opportunity to use it as often as possible. Where we might have a laser tag/bowling alley attraction, Japan tended to have laser tag/VR.
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