Japan Day 3 – Kowloon Walled City inspired arcade

Japan Day 3 – Kowloon Walled City inspired arcade

(Update Oct 2021: Kowloon Walled City is no more, and sadly as of Oct 2019, the Kawasaki Warehouse is no more either. After getting a bucket of hits today, I fixed a lot of old WordPress formatting that didn’t age well, cleaned up my travel grammar issues, and expanded a few bits. Enjoy!)

After my awesome visit Tsukiji fish market, it was time to head south of Tokyo to Kawasaki and visit something I’ve long wanted to see: Kawasaki Warehouse.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Kowloon Walled City? Kowloon Walled City, located in Hong Kong China, was an amazing urban jungle of 350 buildings, almost all between 10 and 14 stories high, and populated by 33,000 people on an unbelievably tiny 6.5 acre plot of ground. This came about when the plot became disputed land after it was released to Britain in the late 1800’s. It existed in a lawless state as its governance remained in dispute. This disputed territory quickly was occupied by those seeking an escape. The people that lived there and the city they built has become stuff of legends.

Kowloon has been the subject of a famous book (now out of print and copies sell for over $400, though reprints are now available) and inspiration for many works of art (like these scenes from the Ghost in the Shell movie):

So, I jumped at the chance to visit the arcade that was supposedly inspired by the cityAmusement Game Park Kawasaki Warehouse is located in Kawasaki just a half hour train ride south of Tokyo.

I took the 30 minute train ride down to Kawasaki Station and then a 5 minute walk south-east of the train station (past a little shopping plaza with a really cool color cycling staircase)

I walk about half a kilometer to the arcade address: 3-7 Nisshinchō, Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 210-0024, Japan.

And there it was nestled between some innocuous looking business towers:

This thing was impressive! The closer you got – the more amazing it looked.  The front door itself was an amazing piece of art. 

The doors opened automatically with a whoosh of air as you entered – like a sci-fi movie. Once through the faux-iron outer doors, it revealed a red lit airlock within.

Next you found yourself in a long hallway that mimics walking down one of Kowloon’s narrow city streets. The attention to detail was astounding. You could hear muted street sounds all around you. As you walk past the doors/windows you overheard noises and voices behind the walls. It sounded like bits and pieces of conversations. Often you could look through the windows and see little scenes and apartments. It was all really well done with lots of great details. But the real treat awaited upstairs – which you reached via a cool elevator.

Wow!  You come up either the elevator or escalator and are greeted by this amazing sight. A very intricate re-creation of a Kowloon street area awaited – with signs, graffiti, food vendors, and dingy vending machines. But this place isn’t a museum – it’s an arcade!  5 floors of it in fact.

The first three floors of the arcade were Kowloon themed – even to the bathrooms.  Well, the men’s bathrooms anyway – the women’s were very nice (at least from what I could see from the hallway. Thankfully the arcade was almost empty mid-day on a weekday so I could snap this shot of the open door). The dinginess is all faux – it’s painted grime. It was like being on a Blade Runner movie set.

The other floors were also themed. There was a floor done up like Greek/Roman architecture. Yet another that looked kind of like a smoky leather/hardwood bar. There were also lots of different floors of games. The first arcade level, like many Japanese arcades, were claw prize machines. The second level was pachinko and coin pusher machines of all sorts – and some strange, gigantic video horse-racing games. The third level was the traditional video arcade machines you’d expect. The fourth level was a field of pool tables, ping-pong, and dart boards being used by some very serious looking characters. The fifth floor was some kind of private club area – so I couldn’t go in to check it out – but it looked a little swanky.

The second floor’s arcade games, however, were very impressive. Many I had never seen before.

Here was a guy killing this game called Jubeat. You had to hit the squares that lit up with special icons in sequences as the music played. The icons changed color quickly after they appeared, and I think you had to hit in time with the beat to give you perfect/good/missed scored points.

The above game is called BeatMania. It’s a fast-paced rhythm game you play on a very realistic DJ mixing panel. Some of the better players I saw were going at amazing rates – this was probably the *slowest* I saw someone playing it.

This game is called Gunslinger Stratos. It looked a lot like a standard rail shooter game but with dual-wielded pistols. The graphics were really well done, but the real kick was the physical guns. On various parts of the handguns (sides/top/front/etc.), they had little alignment rails with attracting magnets in them. While you played, you could you could physically ‘hook’ the two guns together in different configurations: side by side, one on top the other, etc. and get different power shots/effects.

These things have apparently been getting really hot in Japan – Namco P.O.D. (Panoramic Optical Display) systems. Right now, this one is set for Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna – Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield. You actually sit inside this cockpit and are surrounded by displays. They’re apparently networked and you can play people across the country – or in the same arcade. If in the same arcade, you apparently even get in-cockpit voice chat.  But at like 500¥ per play (approximately $5 USD), it comes with a steep price tag.

After a lot of arcade enjoyment, I went back over to the Kowloon themed area from the upper floor and took some more shots. It was impressive and hard to capture the 360 experience.  

(2021 Update: I found this VR view from the upper balcony:)

Finally, one of the most impressive things was the back entrance to the arcade via the parking lot of all things.

If you enter through the garage, you see this cool looking door…

but when it opens…and WHAT????

You get a cool little room with water pouring from dragon heads into this green-lit pool. You have to walk across the rocks with rusty pipe handrail while funky ambient music plays.

Here’s a video of the effect.

This was a fantastic arcade, but after the fun of a few rounds of games, it was time to head back up to Tokyo for one last adventure for the day…

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