Right off the bat from the station, you enter into the madness and spectacle of Akihabara – which is even more impressive at night when all the lights are going and the streets filled with people after working hours.
One of the first shops you’ll run into outside the station is actually a unique Japanese phenomenon: showcase rental shops. These shops simply provide locked display cases full of private owner’s collections. This particular one is called AStop. It had been an electronics store, but was slowly going out of business. When the owner put some of his toys out for sale, they sold for far more than he imagined. Then he had a brainstorm. Why not have display cases people could rent and sell their own things? For about $20-60/mo you can rent your own locked display box and sell, or even just boldly display, your own collections. The owners simply put price stickers on all the items in the cabinet and the staff are in charge of getting items out and handling the transactions for you. The box contents change all the time based on who is renting the boxes and what they are selling or displaying – so these are often very busy places with people checking them out quite often. You’ll see these boxes all over Japan and they are really neat ways to see people’s obsessions.
Next up was one of the biggest things I wanted to try when coming to Japan. Their arcades!
Sega and Taito are will be some of the bigger arcade centers you find in Akihabara, but they all follow a similar pattern. They are multiple floors with usually the first 1-3 floors being crane style games. You can win everything from plastic fish to helmets to keychains to tiny stuffed animals. If it can fit in the box, then there’s probably one somewhere. I was honestly surprised how many there were as these things are notoriously hard to win.
The next floors are full of what would be considered more standard arcade machines. But I was looking for one in particular.
And here it is! Cho Chabudai Gaeshi – or the infamous table flipping game. Chabudai are the small traditional tea tables you see in almost every Japanes home. Chabudai gaeshi is the term that describes the act of violently upending a chabudai as an expression of anger, frustration, and disapproval. It was an action that is attributed to very old-fashioned Japanese fathers but considered about the most rude and family unity destroying thing that one could do. This game is a spoof of that. There were a number of different scenarios but this was my favorite. A nagging wife, a daughter that does nothing but talk on her phone at the dinner table, and son who just ignores everyone. Well, he’s fed up! And in this video, I get first place on the machine! Success! (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
Sangokushi Taisen arcade card game. This was fascinating to watch. The machine had a large play field that allowed you to play it with a combination of a real-time strategy, boss fighting, and card game elements. The machine feeds out cards periodically from the center dispensary. The player then takes the cards and places them on the board which has different regions on the playfield marked out for different actions. Some are attack cards, other defense and other effects. At the macro level, it looks like a realtime army vs army game. As the armies collide, the heroes of each smaller phalanx duke it out in a boss-style battle. The player then takes the cards and moves them to the appropriate attack/defense/inactive states on the board which appears to sense where they are and applies the effects the times the player puts them there. As play progresses, more cards are dispensed. Quite fascinating overall.
Border Break – An interesting and usually busy FPS mech-battle multiplayer game. Each person controls a mech and several of the machines are usually linked together. You would see lots of groups of young people taking turns playing each other. It’s very fast-paced and appeared to have a number of different fighting modes such as everyone-on-everyone and team vs team modes. The graphics were the best of any mech fighting game I’d ever seen, the action was fast-paced and looked quite fun.
MaiMai – touch-screen based rhythm game. This was terribly popular with female players, and I personally found it quite addicting and entertaining. The game consists of touch buttons on the outside ring that you hit as each moving shape reaches the outer ring on the correct beat. The screen itself is also a touch screen and some of the more complex moves involve swiping from one button across the face of the game to another button. It was quite fun and the music was actually quite good and catchy J-pop. Anter perk is you get a lot of play out of a single coin. You get up to 3 songs as long as you pass each one. If you do well enough (A rating or better on each), you get a bonus 4th track. There also appeared to be a score saving/continuing/profile system that allowed you to get strange perks and continue your ascension to higher levels (and more unlocked songs?). I have no doubt this was one of the more popular games at the moment and was in just about every arcade I went and at least one was always being played.
Bishi Bashi – this game was just complete hilarious, random nonsense. You battle your way head-to-head with up to 2 friends performing ridiculous tasks like this toilet sitting mini-game. The levels go up narrated by a game-show like host and each level you pass has a different, and more ridiculous task to perform. Great fun even to watch.
But onward – there’s a lot more Akihabara!