Sorry for the break in these blog posts, I had intended to keep up to date with them each day while in Japan, but there just wasn’t enough time. I did write a few drafts up while relaxing in Tokyo Book and Bed (post on that place coming soon), but never got around to actually posting them.
It would seem a bit odd to post those now, so instead I’m going to cheat a bit and combine / summarize a few places in a slightly different format to normal to catch things up a bit.
Starting with some time in Osaka!!
The first stay in Osaka was a really nice modern apartment in the Chuo Ward, only about half a mile south of Osaka Castle, and just a few minutes walk from Tanimachi 6-chome subway station.
The area around the apartment was mostly residential, though there were still a few convenience stores, shopping street, and strange underground restaurant area which was like the inside of the Tardis, with new sections appearing each time you turned around!
From here it was easy enough to the get into Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori, two of the main shopping, food and nightlife areas in Osaka (great area for lunch with some amazing cake available!). A quick note on Shinsaibashi, wherever you are going from or to in Osaka on the metro, you will end up passing through here, for some reason all roads (or tracks) lead to Shinsaibashi! Next time I’m in Osaka I might make this a drinking game and take a shot each time I pass through this station!
One of the best areas around here for me, was the area of Nipponbashi, also nicknamed DenDen Town. Essentially this is Osaka’s compact version of Akihabara in Tokyo, an area full of anime and video game stores, as well as lots of arcades and prize machines! At night the whole place also glows in neon! (Though as I’d discover later it doesn’t really hold up when compared to Nakano or Akihabara, post on those coming soon!)
So on the arcade side of things there are a LOT of arcades surrounding the whole area of Nipponbashi, most of them are massive, with around 6-8 floors! Most have 1-2 floors full of various prize claw machines, stocked with a variety of anime & game themed merchandise. Some simply full of food and sweets. Then it’s normally 1 floor of dance / drum / music arcade machines, 1 floor of card battle arcade machines, and 1-2 floors of general arcade units, ranging from beat ’em ups to amazing full Gundam cockpit pods!
It turns out I’m somewhat out of practice on the beat ’em up front, having got my ass kicked on a few various machines against the friend I was travelling with. I played a match on a Dragonball versus machine online against others in Japan and got absolutely annihilated! (In my defence I’d never played that game before).
The Gundam pods though were by far my favourite thing there, a full closed pod machine that placed you in a Gundam cockpit with a massive curved screen, had accurate twin stick controls and pedals, and a headset for comms between pilots in the other pods if they were on link play. Sadly due to some technical (human) errors in actually getting the machines to take my coins, I didn’t end up in link play. But even on solo play the game and simulation itself was still fantastic!
The anime stores!
Stores full of anime, manga, and anime merchandise are scattered all around Nipponbashi. There’s a few larger stores which have the usual things like t-shirts, posters, keychains etc, as well as high value collectibles such as replica weapons and items from various anime. For example a stunningly detailed model of The Dominator gun from Psycho Pass.
Along the main street there are quite a few smaller stores, many of which are again spread out over multiple floors, offering all the usual merchandise as well as quite a few various collectible figures and model kits. Most have at least one floor dedicated to manga, and another for blu-rays etc, some have a floor, or are entirely dedicated to trading cards for various games.
There were also a few small areas of just gashapon / capsule toy machines, and a few smaller shops which were just occupied by claw machines with anime goods in them. The stuff in the machines here looked cool, but the smaller prize machine stores are just a really awkward experience and hard to look around as a staff member is instantly on you, following you around literally 2 footsteps behind trying to convince you to spend money! The plus side though is in these smaller stores you do have the option to buy the stuff straight out of the machine, and if you keep trying to win it but end up spending what it’s worth (or just above) then they just give you the item anyway.
The video game stores!
Now when it comes to video game stores, Japan does it right (as with everything else). The used video game stores here have the usual array of up to date release titles on one floor, and a whole different floor full of retro titles. The modern gaming floor is like most, sections divided up by console, then a choice of new or pre-owned, though as you’d expect Xbox has less of a presence here than elsewhere in the world.
The real fun though beings on the retro floor! In terms of games there is pretty much a copy of everything that has ever been released, on any platform! There’s a whole wall full of Saturn games, there are rows of shelving units lined with Famicon titles, there isn’t any free wall space because the walls have hundreds of Gameboy carts hanging from them! And it’s the same with cartridges for the SNES, Megadrive, the N64 etc, each console has a huge section of games for it!
As for the consoles and devices themselves they have stacks of everything from the NES, to the original PlayStation, as well as more obscure things like Barcode Battlers. The other massive difference is here everything was in pretty much perfect, or A1 condition, even consoles 20+ years old were pristine. At the back of some stores you could see staff with retro consoles opened up, cleaning the insides of them before they hit the shelves! Real care and respect is taken over all the retro stuff here.
A real contrast to the UK where shops like game class an Xbox 360 as retro, and second hand shops have the occasional old console, generally something like an N64 that’s in a battered up state, most likely because it was traded in by some chav who nicked it from someone and ended up dragging it along the road by it’s power cord while running away from the police! The shop will then view the battered up console which by now has probably exploded into flames, declare it as ‘near mint’, take the value of it, double it, multiply it by a random number drawn out of hat, then add a couple of zeros at the end, and conclude that’s what it will go on the shelf for.
(for some reason I lost a cache of photos, but google image search Osaka retro game stores and you’ll see what I mean)
As with all areas of Japan there is also no shortage of drink vending machines around (something I really love!), and there are plenty of great food places around. Including a great little open street bar that did some great food, which was essentially large shrimp in takoyaki batter.