Japan is an industrious nation. As a people, the Japanese work very hard. Much, much harder than any normal Westerner's schedule - it is not uncommon for a Japanese office worker, or salaryman, to leave his house at 7 am and not return home until midnight, every night - and it shows in their recreation. "Onsens," or public bathhouses, are one of the most popular recreations in Japan because it's a place designed for people to go and relax for a few hours away from home.
|Come Hither! Kitty.|
So when the weekend rolls around - sometimes Saturday and Sunday, sometimes only Sunday - it's understandable that you wouldn't want to stay at home for yet another day. Given the choice of staying at home and firing up your PS3 or Wii or going out and blowing off steam at a bevy of exhilarating, fantastic, sometimes physically exhausting arcade machines, many people choose to get the hell out of the house and blow some of the Yen they worked so hard for during the week. I know I do.
I have a unique perspective on the Japanese work schedule as I work an afternoon schedule from after school to before bed teaching English to a mix of different ages of students. I don't work from 7 am to midnight, but I do work at the time of day when, were I still in America, I would normally meet friends for dinner or go shopping after work. And because I live in a small town, everything is closed down early, so I experience the same sort of cabin fever that all of these salarymen do, basically confined until the weekend due to various scheduling quirks and oddly-scheduled classes. After a few months of staying home with my special-edition Ni no Kuni golden PS3 incessantly replaying Dark Souls and Silent Hill and Final Fantasy VII, I could feel my mind start to go and my spirit threaten to escape out through my nose and earholes. I needed something else to do, but what?
I tried the restaurants (too expensive), I tried the museums (too illiterate), I tried the millions of things there are to do in Nagoya, Japan for a mid-20s gentleman like myself from shopping in the fabulous Osu district to exploring the city to dating 18-year-olds, but I was still searching for the experience that would satisfy my desire to find something that would keep me out of the house for an extended period of time, until one day I saw an exodus of Japanese men and their girlfriends coming out from under a bridge. It was a sea of people, hundreds of them, and my curiosity and I waded through them to discover from what dam this wave had burst.
It was an Arashi concert--or some such other J-pop draw the teenage-to-lower-20s indulge in, who knows--but upon moving further away down the street, I came across an almost equally busy arcade, and I was thrilled.
There are tons of arcades in Japan. You'll find one in every single Aeon mall (Aeon is essentially the Japanese equivalent of Sears or Macy's, to which a larger, more or less American-style mall is attached), which means in my immediate area alone there are at least four different fully-stocked arcades. This is not counting the immense number of Pachinko and slot casinos that litter the landscape - on any given main road, you'll run into a Pachinko place at right around one every mile or less - that are continuously patronized. I can't think of a single arcade still open in the Montgomery County, Maryland area where I grew up since the Dave & Buster's blew up. However, there are four within four miles of me here in Japan.
|Jubeat and Reflec Beat: ¥100 of fun|
|I got strange looks after taking this picture.|
|Not a great pic, but card-based arcade games require commitment.|
|Not pictured: one of the 30 photo booths these girls came out of.|