‘A portal to a different world’: a gamer’s guide to visiting Japan

TOKYO, Aug 02 (The Guardian) - Whether you enter the big green pipe to Super Nintendo World, or want to rummage through rare games in Tokyo’s Electric Town, Japan is a video game paradise

The experience of travelling in Japan is simultaneously overwhelming and freeing. The world feels bigger out there, gilded by how mainstream video game culture is in comparison with the west. It doesn’t feel like a subculture; it is ordinary. For example, I walked into a FamilyMart for a snack one afternoon, and found a Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom promotional mushroom tart (which was delicious). The little bright-green payphones along the streets are the very same as those used in the Resident Services in Animal Crossing. Narita Airport even has an entire Nintendo display welcoming jet-lagged passengers fresh off the plane. As a western tourist on a personal pilgrimage, there is so much to find and be surprised by.

Here are some recommendations for fellow video game fans planning to explore Japan:

Akihabara, Tokyo

This district didn’t get the name Electric Town for nothing: it is brimming with video game culture. The skyline is roaring neon – it’s worth visiting at sunset to get the most impact. If you spot some of the maids from the maid cafes on the street waving in punters, don’t take pictures of them; give them a wave and be polite even if you don’t want to dip in to have tea served to you by a girl (or boy) in cat ears.

There are dozens of arcades and shops that sell new and secondhand video games, consoles and merchandise – no matter what you are looking for, be it a Game Boy Micro or a highly specific statuette of a Final Fantasy character, you have a good chance of finding it here. Be prepared to go up plenty of sets of narrow, winding stairs and take your time rummaging. ...continue reading