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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My pilgrimage to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto

I’ve been a Nintendo fan for 30 years, and I was in Kyoto for the first time. Well I had to go to Nintendo, didn’t I?

First stop was very hard to find, and Google (at least in English) was very little help. I wanted to see the oldest surviving Nintendo building, buried in the backstreets of a now largely residential area of Kyoto.

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After some research (largely machine translating Japanese walking tour maps), I worked out it was somewhere near here, which was around 15 minutes walk from the apartment we were staying in.

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So we set off the next morning. After a lot of wandering in the freezing cold winter air, we found it!

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Built in 1933, it sits on the same land as the original headquarters from 1889. While nicely designed with lots of detailed flourishes, it’s an otherwise relatively nondescript building. Except for two plaques:

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The sign references Japanese playing cards ‘Karuta’ (かるた) and western playing cards ‘Trump’ (トランプ – Toranpu)

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This was their playing card factory and distribution centre before they became a larger toy company, and it has stayed in company hands.

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 I took a peek inside as well, it is clearly well maintained and clean, and in some form of use.

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It appears to have been maintained perfectly from the 1933 until today.

The next stop would be much easier to find. It was about 40 minutes walk away through residential and industrial areas, though we stopped in at a couple of Kyoto’s famous temples along the way.

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Until it appeared…

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Mecca.

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Two blocks away there is the other monolith, the new development building.

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Not too much to see, you’re not allowed in either building. But they do have a nice big sign at the development centre.KyotoNintendo_0067