If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware that I went to Japan again over the holidays. My trip was a good one: I went to Comiket with a bunch of cool people from Lab Zero, went to the annual Fighting Vipers 2 crew bounenkai, dropped by Osaka to see rad folks and acquire a Raimais PCB, and somehow wound up in two different Sega-themed cafes over the course of my visit. Among other things!
Of course, I made sure to swing by a few arcades in the process. Much to my anger and disappointment, Akihabara HEY stopped selling its most recent round of exclusive merch the day before I got to go there, but I still managed to bring ANN’s Mike Toole inside and inspire a column in the process. TRF in Nakano was another stop, and it’s still as full of beautiful poverty fighting games as it ever was — though they seem to have brought in some Magician’s Dead machines as of late.1 And, of course, I swung by Mikado to do some work there (stay tuned for more on that).
There was one arcade I had to go to this time around, though. Last year, I saw pics a buddy took of a place referred to as the “Kawasaki Warehouse.” What I saw looked incredibly bizarre: an arcade modeled after the infamous Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong, filled with decaying signs, dim lights, and musty, decrepit structures that appeared to be falling apart. Among all of this was a swath of arcade machines: white cabinets, bright screens, and colorful lights standing out starkly against the tarnished brown and gray of the surroundings. I knew this was something I’d have to see for myself.
That’s exactly what I did. And now, I come back to you with pictures in hand of what might be the coolest “theme” arcade I’ve ever been to, Anata no Warehouse.
Kawasaki, much like Yokohama, is a major suburb of Tokyo. It’s not technically Tokyo, but it’s connected to Tokyo in so many ways that it is easily assimilated by the giant metropolitan glob of the Greater Tokyo Area. There are some noteworthy places to visit around there, and the main Kawasaki station itself is pretty darn impressive. It might not be as confusingly huge as Shinjuku or Shibuya, but both the Kawasaki station and the immediate surroundings feature plenty of cool places to shop and eat.
You need to go a little ways southwest of the station area, though, if you’re looking for the Warehouse. It takes about ten or fifteen minutes to walk there, and you’ll pass a giant hospital campus and several small stores in the process. If you head over there in the evening when it’s dark and cold and most of the stores have closed up, like I did, it’s a nice mood-setter for actually going inside of the facility. Seriously, that hospital area during a chilly winter night is creepy.
Here’s the entrance. You’ll notice that this is strictly a grownups-only facility. While I only went to the arcade game floor, there are things like billiards on the higher levels, so I assume there are bars and such as well. Personally, I love the idea of an adult-oriented arcade that’s totally kid-free.
As you go through the doors to the main hall, blasts of air blow in your face to give you a bit of a jump-scare and set the mood. There were a gaggle of twentysomethings entering the facility before me, and one of the girls wasn’t just a little surprised — she ran back out the door shrieking and had to be dragged back in by her giggling friends.
Here are pictures of the main hall. It’s cramped, dimly lit, grimy, and covered in old Chinese and English signage. Just for ambiance, you’ll be hearing voices screaming in Cantonese Chinese played over the sound system. Definitely creepy!
I don’t know about you, but given the environment here, the prospect of riding the elevators is more than a little discomforting.
And what’s this next to it? Why, it’s a full-motion Space Harrier cabinet! Of the handful that still exist now, I’ve played two: this and the one at Mikado.
Such a lovely machine! There’s a Rad Mobile to the right of Outrun, as well, though my picture of it turned out poorly.
But wait! That’s hardly it for retro machines here!
Gauntlet! Thanks to Namco’s distribution deal with Atari Games, they were able to bring a bunch of these US-style cabinets into Japan. It did pretty well!
Shockingly, the pressure-sensitive… buttons? Hydraulic pads?… on this original Street Fighter cabinet are still intact. My first time seeing one of these cabinets in person! Didn’t play it though, because hahaha SF1 is kinda trash, let’s be real
There’s a Darius cab here, too. Sadly, my picture of the full cabinet turned out badly — it looks a fair bit different from the US model. It’s also interesting how much the Japanese release of Darius emphasized the audio, going as far to include headphone jacks, volume controls, and sound-activated vibration in the seats.
All of the big-ticket retro games comes with one of these “museum cards” explaining the game’s history and espousing some trivia.
No, that’s not actual poultry being sold. I really dig the broken-down UFO catcher, though.
There are some classic cocktail cabinets, too! Something here seems a bit off, though. Gallag…?
Wait, the card here says Mr. Du, and the title says Mr. Lo… um?
Penta?! Okay, now I know all of this stuff is extremely suspect!
You probably guessed what’s going on here — these are all bootleg games, and Warehouse isn’t hiding that fact in the slightest. Gotta admire them for willingly running this janky-ass stuff. (You’ll notice Gallag and Mr.Du/Lo have warnings about a freeze bug, as well!)
I think this cocktail cabinet of Heiankyo Alien might be the only legit game out of the bunch.
More music games. I guess Hello Pop’n Music was supposed to be “entry-level” Pop’N Music? Something tells me it didn’t take off, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen this machine before. Meanwhile, Dance Evolution is one of (I think) two arcade machines to use Kinect. Man, remember Kinect? *laugh track*
Not a music game, but who can resist Bishi Bashi?
(The side doors are restrooms, and sadly, they don’t follow the Kowloon theming. It’s downright bizarre to walk into a elegant pink ladies’ room from here.)
Melty and Rival Schools. You can see Puyo Tsu and Virtua Tennis/Power Smash off in the background as well.
So, which do you prefer? Spikeout or Slashout?
In this corner, we have a mishmash of classics and obscurities. Strikers 1999, Darwin 4078, The Tower of Druaga (which I think every Japanese retro arcade must have by law), and… whoa, Libble Rabble! I hadn’t seen that in an actual cabinet before, and having played the original arcade version now, I can confirm that the real-deal dual-joystick control scheme makes the game a lot easier to jump into and really enjoy.
Phew! That’s a lot of pictures, but let me tell you: this place is huge, and there’s a lot I didn’t get pictures of: various lightgun cabinets, card-based games, aisles of UFO catchers and other prize machines, and plenty more music games.
Time to head back, but you bet I’ll be visiting again!
So as far as I’m concerned, if you love arcades and are in the Tokyo area, you owe yourself a trip to Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki. There’s enough here to entertain you for an entire day on the arcade floor alone, and the one-of-a-kind atmosphere and the generally well-maintained state of most of the machines make the whole experience a real treat. Heck, the weird Kowloon theme alone might be enough for you to convince your non-arcade-dork adult friends to tag along, too — there are other entertainment options like billards and darts, too.
There are other Anata no Warehouses across Japan, and apparently they all have interesting themes like this — though I’m not sure how they fare for retrogaming stuff. I guess that’s something I’ll have to investigate for the future. For now though, I can say without a doubt: Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki is a place every gaming.moe reader should definitely visit!
- As a friend put it, “Given what gets played at TRF, if Magician’s Dead is there, that means it probably bombed everywhere else.” ↩