The best arcade in Japan – Kowloon Walled City at Kawasaki

Kowloon Walled City was a lawless mini-city built just outside of Hong Kong.

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Established on a legal ‘no-man’s land’ and unpoliced by either Britain or China, it thrived and became an amazing mass of humanity.

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You might know it was the place the Kumite was held…

It was torn down in 1994, but I’ve always been fascinated by the place. I’ve been to where it once was, and all that is left is a boring park, with a few monuments like a piece of the original foundation, and a model of the old city.

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What has this got to do with Japan?

It seems I wasn’t the only one who was fascinated by the walled city, as some of the interior has been re-created in Japan. It’s called the Kawasaki Warehouse, and it’s one of many amazing pet projects by Japanese designer Taishiro Hoshino.

So we got on the train out of Tokyo and headed for Kawasaki. It’s a bit of a walk, but easy to find once in the right area.

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The entrance looks right out of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman:

Inside you have to walk past pretend drug dens and prostitutes

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Until it opens up into a re-creation of the bustling city courtyards

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That just happens to have an old-school video arcade inside!

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Everything from Taito’s original three screen Darius
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To a sit-down Outrun cabinet
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To more recent offerings like Nintendo and Namco’s Mario Kart Arcade

Even the bathrooms match the theme

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I’m assured the ladies was much nicer!

Upstairs there’s a weird renaissance theme, and classy layout for various parlour games

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And of course, Pachinko and crane games.

Well worth the trip out to Kawasaki!

More photos:

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Nintendo and other gaming in mainland China

China is a strange place when it comes to gaming. Despite the proximity, Japanese consoles have rarely had much presence, as most of China wasn’t developed enough during the age of their rise. You do find the odd arcade, and like everywhere else, terrible ‘free to play’ mobile games have taken over in the last couple of years.

Nintendo and their characters are as present as any pop-culture icons. They exist in the copyright wild west of China’s major cities primarily as pirated merchandise (with a few examples of legit merch). But there was no sign in any stores I saw of the actual main Nintendo products – the games themselves.

Here’s a photo journal of some of the gaming stuff I came across on a trip through mainland China.

Beijing

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Mario Kart Wii used as a sign for…
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90s (and early 2000s) arcade games by Sega, Namco, Capcom and SNK!

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 Xian

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So weird how you can get Mario Happy Meals, how would they even know what a Boomerang Bros suit is?
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At a Xian ‘indoor market’
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As far as I can tell, the Wii U isn’t even available in China. Yet here’s a Mario 3D World toy.

Xiamen

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Mario sells men’s clothing in Xiamen. A very strange city, it’s like a dying tourist town.

Shanghai

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‘Shanghai Fake Market’ – a huge indoor market with branded stores that haven’t paid for the branding…

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Ironically retro gaming would be easy in Shanghai – great supply of working CRTs available cheap at antique markets.

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