You can enjoy 24-hour game playing in Tokyo, everywhere from internet cafes and arcades to maid cafes and purikura photo booths.
Shooting Bar EA
Shooting Bar EA is a BB gun target range and bar … yup, drink up, and shoot things! Once you’ve signed the obligatory rules and regs contract and ventured inside, the bar and cosy tables are surrounded by BB gun replicas hanging on the walls – Glocks, Sig Sauers, Colts, and even a Samurai Edge, the handgun used in the Resident Evil video games. The partitioned shooting range is outfitted with a touch panel to control the targets’ location, and guns with three magazines of BBs or rifles with two are available to rent for about £4.50. Goggles are provided.
• 1-5-5 Gotenyama, Sawada Building 2F, Musashino, +81 4 2226 9100,shootingbar-ea.jp. Open 5pm-1am
Internet Comic Cafe Manboo!
Manboo! isn’t just an internet cafe. It’s a glitzy all-you-can-eat otaku(geeks’) buffet. Peruse the aisles of manga, play PlayStation and online games, charge your mobile, sleep, and guzzle as much free fizzy melon soda as you like. There are showers as well as shoebox-sized rooms with sofas for breaking out between games, and the Udagawa-cho location in Shibuya even has an on-site nail salon. Thirty minutes costs ¥100 yen for women (just under £1), and around £1.75 for men, with an eight-hour night block costing around £11.
• 12-3 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, +81 3 5428 5188, manboo.co.jp. Open year round, 24 hours a day
The top floor of Akihabara’s Super Potato retro games centre is an old-time Japanese arcade, complete with 1970s-style glass-top cocktail arcade cabinets. Besides arcade games, there are manga comics for perusal, bottled Coca-Cola for purchase, and a giant chair made completely of Nintendo game cartridges. The decor fails to match the retro theme – it’s more like a jungle, with the rafters covered in fake leaves and vines, sheltering a camo-clad life-size statue of Snake from Metal Gear Solid, with pistol cocked.
• 1-11-2 Soto-Kanda, Kitabayashi Building 3F-5F, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 5289 9933, superpotato.com. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat, Sun 10am-8pm
Short for Hirose Entertainment Yard, Hey! is a must-stop in Akihabara for arcade game lovers. Rows and rows of arcade machines flicker under the fluorescent lights, and you’ll need guts of steel and quick reflexes on the arcade’s second floor, dedicated to crazy “bullet hell” shoot-’em-up games like Mushihimesama, in which endless streams of projectiles are fired at players. The third floor is filled with fighting games, and the regulars are some of the best gamers in Japan. Hey! isn’t where people go to practise. It’s where they go to show off.
• 1-10-5 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 5209 2030, taito.co.jp. Open daily 10am-midnight
Arcades in Tokyo are smoky – a major turn-off for many visitors. Namco Nakano, near otaku shopping centre Nakano Broadway, is a little different – clean, spacious arcade gaming with strict no-smoking sections and air purifiers, as well as the usual array of arcade games. What it lacks in smoke it also lacks in personality – the place is sterile compared with the grungier, older arcades, but the atmosphere is relaxed, and the competition isn’t nearly as stiff as at pro-gamer haunts such as Hey!. It’s a good place for “casuals” building their way up.
• 5-52-15 Nakano, Nakano-ku, +81 3 5380 5442, namco.co.jp. Open daily 10am-1.45am
Shibuya Kaikan Monaco
The stubbornly strong yen is a drain on visitors’ wallets. For gamers with a retro gaming itch who don’t want to bust the bank, here’s a solution: at Shibuya Kaikan Monaco, many of the arcade cabinets run retro games and take ¥50 coins (as opposed to the standard ¥100), which means you get more gaming for your yen. The place smells like wet cigarettes, and while the dilapidated building does have its charm, it feels as old as the games it houses.
• 23-10 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, +81 3 3461 9171. Open daily 10am-midnight
Joypolis isn’t just an arcade, it’s a colourful theme park complete with rides, a haunted house and a rollercoaster. There are arcade games, of course, but also virtual reality attractions and short 3D movies. One standout is Initial D Arcade Stage 4, which features life-sized versions of iconic Japanese cars for virtual racing. Many of the attractions are on the expensive side – a ride on the spinning rollercoaster is around £5. Admission is around £4.50 adults, £2.50 children, and there are passports available: around £30 adults, and around £27 under-15s.
• 1-6-1 Daiba Minato-ku, +81 3 5500 1801, tokyo-joypolis.com. Open 10am-11pm, but closed for refurbishment until July 2012
Purikura no Mecca
Having first appeared in the mid-1990s, sticker photo machines, akapurikura or “print club”, are now a cultural mainstay – whether on a date or with friends, Japanese teens have become obsessed with posing for snaps in these increasingly ubiquitous booths. Located right next to Shibuya Kaikan Monaco, Purikura Mecca is a cramped, schoolgirl-saturated first floor that features rows and rows of the machines. Spend half an hour there and you’ll get the idea. House rules say that male customers must be accompanied by a female, while all-girl groups are OK.
• 2-23-15 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, +81 3 3477 8136
Candy Fruit Refresh
Akihabara isn’t just about gaming and shopping. It’s also about maids. For those who feel that visiting a coffee shop staffed by Japanese maids in frilly Victorian outfits isn’t quite adventurous enough, Candy Fruit Refresh allows patrons to hire maids to play video games with them in what looks like a typical, cramped Japanese living room. You can get in shape with Wii Fit or hunt monsters together with Monster Hunter. When you tire of that, you can pay Candy Fruit Refresh maids to clean your ears – or even just talk to you. A 30-minute course costs around £23, while £40 will get you a full hour of maid gaming fun. Incredibly odd.
• 6-5-11 Soto-Kanda 3F, Hasegawa Building, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 6809 1218, candyfruit-refresh.com. Open Mon-Fri 3pm9pm, Sat, Sun 1pm-9pm
Game Bar A-Button
What more appropriate way to end an Akihabara day than with a nightcap accompanied by all the old video game consoles you could ever want. Retro game controllers hang from the walls, and gamers roll back the years on 1980s and 1990s analogue games on original Nintendo Famicoms beamed through the in-house cathode ray TV while supping draught beer and ordering giant bottles of sake. Piled high with games and consoles, it feels more like a Japanese gamer’s dream bedroom than a bar, but there’s a full range of spirits and a selection of side dishes to service your game trance.
• 1-13-9 Taito, Taito-ku, +81 3 5856 5475, a-button.jp. Open Tues-Thurs, Sun 5pm-midnight, Fri, Sat and days before national holidays 5pm-4am
For more information go to the Japan National Tourism Organisation’s website: jnto.go.jp/eng
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