Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Returned from Japan

This past weekend, I finally went to Tokyo. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to Japan, the mecca of gaming. I stayed for three days in Shinagawa and from there, I traveled to various hot spots around Tokyo, including Akihibara and Shibuya. Here are some random thoughts from my trip:

  • Contrary to what you may have heard, most people are not reading manga or playing portable game systems on the trains in Tokyo. Out of the several trains I took over my three day stay, I saw three people playing Vitas. I saw no one rockin' a 3DS, but I did get a ton of Streetpasses, so I know they had them hidden somewhere. As far as manga goes, one middle-aged Japanese lady was reading Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (part IV), so she obviously had excellent taste.
  • Akihibara is a weird place. There are tons of otaku-themed places there, including maid cafes and anime PVC figure shops. The game shops were amazing, especially the retro themed place I found, I even found myself a copy of Sexy Parodius to replace the one I lost years ago. Most things seemed overpriced compared to eBay, but the "junk" sections had plenty of gems like Puzzle Bobble 3 for 2 bucks. The staff in most stores could speak some English, and they were very polite. Unfortunately, Akihibara is becoming overrun by porn stores, which seemed to outnumber game stores 2-1.
  • Japanese people are very polite, and most people will speak to you in English if you ask for directions.  Don't try to speak Japanese unless you are fluent, they will assume you can understand them and speak very quickly to you!
  • My hotel was actually positioned across the street from Bandai Namco. One would think with the amount of history those two companies have produced (Pac-Man, Galaga, Tekken, Gundam, etc.) the building would have some sort of monument or statues outside of their corporate headquarters. Sadly, it is a very dull looking building with no signs of the culture they helped to create in Japan.
Overall, my trip to Japan was fun, but I can't help but feel the so-called mecca of gaming is a bit lacking these days. Maybe the gaming culture is losing traction in the Land of the Rising Sun with the masses.The arcades were particularly interesting as they were filled with two groups of people: tired looking salary men chain smoking away and school girls playing crane games. Where were the young men? Anyway, maybe I will return there one day, I just hope games are still a part of the norm at that time. 

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