From its top-notch cuisine to its scenic landscapes, there are many layers to Japan. But besides that, a visit to Japan is also the ultimate goal of many gamers. It’s the birth place of iconic titles such as Mario, Sonic, Pokémon that have influenced the way Western culture consumes gaming media. If you’re looking to check off some locations from your gamer bucket list, here are eight places you need on your itinerary.
Anyone who has the tiniest bit of interest in Japanese pop culture has to visit the Akihabara district at least once. There’s so many dedicated gaming stores in the area that there is merchandise for every budget. Here, you’ll find shops selling game consoles, games, and accessories at unbeatable prices.
Square Enix Café
(Source: Nintendo Life)
If you’ve a fan of the Final Fantasy series, Kingdom Hearts, and the award-winning Nier Automata, then you’ll be glad to know that its developer created a café dedicated to them. The Square Enix Café has two branches in Tokyo — in Akihabara and Shinjuku. One of the dishes they serve is the limited-edition Sea Salt Ice Cream — in line with the Kingdom Hearts 3 release last January.
(Source: Accessible Tokyo)
There are Pokémon Centers all over Japan, the biggest one being in Sunshine City, Ikebukuro. It is here you can buy lots of merchandise inspired by the beloved franchise — from apparel and homeware, to toys and other lifestyle goods. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a few Pokémon trading card matches they occasionally hold.
Pachinko Slot Centers
(Source: Japan Hoppers)
The rise of game consoles and mobile devices have rendered most arcade games obsolete, but not in this country. According to the Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, there are more than 4,800 registered arcades across the country in over 9,000 locales.
Every type of arcade game can be found in Japan, but if you truly want to experience Japanese culture then you must “try” the pachinko slot machines which date back over 80-years. The goal of the game is to fire tiny balls into gates as this then triggers the release of more balls. An ExpatBets guide to playing pachinko explains that, unlike a regular slot machine, these arcade games don’t produce money. The winnings (in the form of the balls) can be exchanged for prizes. To avoid Japan’s gambling laws, one of the prizes is a TUC gold card which can be converted to cash at certain parlors. If you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest game, they operate similarly to Monster Casinos.
Huis Ten Bosch Game Museum
This destination, located in Nagasaki, is Japan’s premier video game museum. It features objects from various eras in gaming history, like consoles from the 1950’s, old arcades, the most recent gaming technologies, and tons of limited-edition paraphernalia that can only be found here. Video games have always been synonymous to Japan, and the Huis Ten Bosch Game Museum provides a good crash course for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Ginza Sony Park
Last year, tech giant and game developer Sony built a four-level building (plus an actual park) smack in the middle of the Ginza district. Since it’s a fairly new place, its current facilities only include a roller-skating rink on the second floor, shops selling Sony merchandise, and an open top floor. However, the Japan Times reports that the park is only temporary, and will eventually turn into a Sony office in 2020.
Though Nintendo is famous all over the world, they’re something of a national treasure in Japan. The company is so significant that the Japanese government uses characters like Mario to greet international visitors. Their headquarters are located in the heart of Kyoto. Though you won’t be able to get in since it’s staff-only, it’s enough of a treat to marvel at the structure from the outside.
This list wouldn’t be complete without something from Nintendo’s long-time rival, Sega. There are at least four of these massive towers in Akihabara, and they are one of the most visited establishments in the district. Inside you’ll find number of Sega-licensed arcades, merchandise, and gifts from popular Japanese games.