Tag Archives: Anime

Come to Akihabara and get Schooled at Arcade Games

I grew up with an arcade up the street from me. I only went there once and it has now been replaced by a furniture store. You don’t see many arcades in the USA anymore. That is quite the opposite of what is going on in Japan. Arcades seem to be thriving, especially in Akihabara which is considered the cultural centre for all things computer games, manga, and anime-related.

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I think we took the JR (Japan Rail) to get there and then just walked North(?). There might have been a few transfers, but I can’t remember exactly HOW we got there, but we got there. Right out of the exit we are bombarded with neon’s and brightly painted buildings touting anime and manga characters that I was (and still am) unfamiliar with. We kept walking until we found an arcade that we liked, actually I think it was the first arcade we came across but we liked what we saw. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos while inside but let me tell you, it was pretty cool. The arcades that I grew up with were always on a single floor and spread out over a vast, expansive space that was more like a warehouse. With space and land at a premium all things in Japan grow UP and not out.

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Once inside we went up an escalator that snaked up the building. We passed through floors with various games ranging from a ‘Rock Band’ like game to a floor that was entirely pink and filled with games meant for smaller & younger children. After staking out the entire place we went back down a few floors and found some games to play. The first one I played was a classic zombie shoot-em-up only as you held the gun in your hand it monitored your heart rate and whenever a zombie or another creature popped out and surprised me, I would see the meter spike. A truly fun and unique experience, even if I did die within the first 10 minutes.

The second game I tried was called ‘Quiz Magic Academy’. I had no idea what the game was about or what it did. I just sat down, dropped in some Yen and started playing…or at least I tried to play. Little did I know that I stumbled upon a word/quiz game – in Japanese! I selected my character, who rode a rocket ship instead of a broom like the other witches/wizards and I was off.

Then the questions started coming.

I had no idea what they were asking or what the answers were. I just pushed the buttons on the screen hoping for something good to happen. I got one or two right, clearly on accident, and this game felt like it went on for an hour because I was doing so poorly. Mercifully, the game ended and no one was near me to see how poorly I did, although I’m sure they could just look at my face and see that I was in a daze because my ass just got kicked.

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After leaving that arcade we ventured up the street to find another arcade. As luck, and proximity, would have it we found one a few buildings away. We walked inside and could see that this one was different. This arcade was filled with games that allowed you the opportunity to win prizes! From stuffed Pikachu’s to figurines and body pillows with scantily-clad manga girls on them. I stuck to the games with Pokemon prizes in them, because that was the only thing I was familiar with in that entire shop.

After trying my hand at the classic claw game trying to catch a plush Bulbasaur, and failing, I sat down to play a version of Pokemon. Finally! Something I knew how to play without having to know Japanese! I selected my Pokemon and proceeded to battle. I missed my opportunity to catch two of them but the third was mine. I sent out that Pokeball and boom! I caught a Garchomp! Relishing in my victory I gave myself a small round of applause and then I heard something rattle around at my feet. I looked down and saw a prize slot and a cartridge. I picked it up and saw it was Garchomp. Apparently you could use the cartridges in the game itself as you battled other Pokemon. I then came to the realization that you can actually carry around Pokemon in your bag and be ready for battle at any arcade that had this game. I didn’t care about that. I only cared that I literally caught a Pokemon in Japan! My life is complete.

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To The Land of the Rising Sun

With my journey in Hong Kong over, I embarked on my next destination: Japan! But first I had to get to the airport.

I left my friends apartment in Tin Hau before 6am to hop on the MTR. Little did I know that I would have to wait for it to open and in that brief moment I saw the entrance gated off, I thought to myself “How the #%&* am I going to get to Central Station? Will I need to take a cab there? Do I go back to my friends apartment and wait?” Those questions and what felt like a million others flooded my brain as I walked toward another entrance. I was greeted by a locked gate there too, but this time I read the sign and saw that it opened in 10 minutes. This set my mind at ease and I was able to wait patiently, with my three bags, for the MTR to open and subsequently hop on the train and head to the airport. Once again, it was very simple to make my way through Hong Kong and to the airport which I had forgotten how spacious it was since I was rushing through trying to get my bags the last time I was there. It is beautifully constructed, with a ceiling that seemed to stretch forever and made me feel very small in comparison.

After a smooth check-in, a quick stop at a gift shop, and a bite to eat I was on my way to Japan. After sitting on flights for 15.5 & 13.5 hours this quick trip of less than five hours was nothing to me. Going to Japan had been a dream of mine ever since I was young and I owe it all to anime. I grew up watching shows like Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gundam Wing, and DragonBall Z so this trip had been a long time coming. I knew it wouldn’t be anything like those shows, but being where they were created was what I had been wanting to do for quite some time.

After a friendly exchange with the airport security guard checking my bag, I mean this literally he was very nice and curious about what I there to see and do. I realize it was typical screening stuff but it did not feel like an interrogation (like the ones I’ve faced when re-entering the USA). I gathered my bags, looked around the baggage claim area and saw that I was one of the last ones left from my flight – which is what I like since I like to be last off the plane because I have to wait for my bags anyway so I might as well relax! I walked through the double doors and what was the first thing I saw? A poster of DragonBall Z characters and some Hayao Miyazaki characters, like Totoro, all welcoming me to Japan! How cool is that? Too cool, if you ask me. I determined it to be a great omen for the rest of my trip.

Once through the doors, I looked around to see how I was going to get to my hotel and eventually meet up with my friend who was flying in at the same time but at Narita, the other major airport on the other side of the city. I knew my final destination and the general way how to get there – or at least I thought I did. All of my research was done online but when I stood and looked up at the most complicated metro system I have ever seen, I froze. Luckily there was a nice female employee who asked where I was going and then directed me how to get there and what I needed to pay. I made my way through the turnstile and down to the platform for the Keikyu Line. Once the train arrived I hopped on and I looked up at the map – no English. Internally, I panicked but calmed myself because I knew the name of the station I needed.

I moved out of the way as passengers boarded and took their seats all the while I was doing two things: listening for my stop and taking in the Japanese urban scenery. It wasn’t until two stops before my final stop that I looked directly above me and saw a digital screen that flashed both Japanese AND English for the station name…Oh well. Sure enough, I made my transfer easily and found my way to my final destination: Tameike-sanno station in Akasaka. I found my exit and made my way to my hotel. I had used Google Maps to find my way, but nothing can prepare you for actually being there. I made my way through an alley and onto the street the hotel was on but I took a wrong turn and then had to find WiFi and pinpoint the hotel which was literally a block away.

Let me tell you, finally finding that hotel and being able to put my bags down felt AMAZING! I was sweating from carrying my bags and I just needed a rest. About an hour or so later, my friend arrived and we hit up the 7-Eleven for some late night/cheap eats. I grabbed a juice, some chips, and a microwaveable burger. I put my items on the counter and the cashier spoke to me in Japanese. I told her one of the few Japanese phrases I knew: “I don’t understand”, and shrugged. She then continued in Japanese but this time pointed to the microwave. I shook my head, since we had one back in our room, said “Arigato!” and we walked back to our hotel.

Back at the hotel, we went to the vending machine to see about the famed Japanese vending machines that carried beer – something unheard of in the USA. We were not disappointed:

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After eating, and drinking, we walked around the neighborhood a bit to give ourselves a better feel for our surroundings. Walking around we were treated to bright neon lights and a city brimming with life as tons of people were on the sidewalks making their way and the street was filled with cars. A truly amazing sight, and the beginning of an awesome journey.

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