This is the Kawasaki branch of Anata no Warehouse (“Your Warehouse”), a chain of amusement arcades in the Kantou region around Tokyo. The Kawasaki branch is based on the Kowloon Walled City, a mutant rat-king of buildings housing a Hong Kong slum that was demolished in 1994. The Walled City is a fascinating story, and seems to appeal to architects and anthropologists alike for its emergent organisation and inventive (and regulation-defying) physical structure. As portrayed at the Kawasaki Warehouse, though, it’s a kind of run-down metropolis of street food and neon lights, like a Blade Runner back alley.
To appreciate the grimy facade you need to consider it among it’s pristine surroundings in Kawasaki. Anything that looks remotely rusted, worn-out, dilapidated, or in disrepair has been very carefully presented that way.
Inside, a retro game corner sits in a street scene of exposed and roughed-up concrete, scattered with worn out posters and notices allegedly imported from the backstreets of Hong Kong. Washing hangs up high at an apartment balcony; a stall of plastic roasted wildfowl sits next to the vending machines.
The themed decor continues into the toilets — the darkest, filthiest corner of the establishment. But it’s not really filthy of course, because we’re in (Greater) Tokyo. Sure enough, the Toto Washlet bidet-lavatory awaits inside the stall with it’s extensive electronic control panel. Anything you might need to touch is impeccably clean.
Amusingly, the faux-filth is deemed unbecoming of female patrons, whose bog looks like they moved it brick by brick from Disneyland.
So this place is lots of fun when you first see it, and it’s certainly done the rounds online over the years, but the whole Kowloon thing is a bit short-lived. It’s very nicely done, but there’s just not much of it. Apart from the entrance floor, the retro corner, and toilets, it’s just a game centre. So how are the games?
The retro cabinets are amazing. The trio of sit-in Sega cabs at the entrance — Space Harrier, Outrun, and Rad Mobile — is delightful. Then there’s Darius, Gauntlet, a deluxe Street Fighter cab, and a handful more, plus some table-tops of things like Space Invaders. The retro corner alone would be worth the journey from central Tokyo. (OK, so for me the Sega cabs alone were worth it. OK, just Space Harrier was enough.)
Beyond the museum pieces, it’s all the usual stuff, but up to date and well implemented: all the music cabs have headphone sockets, all the racers are in multiples, and the layout is spacious and cool. They even have designated smoking locations, so it stinks a bit less than most places.
Expansive as the videogame section is, it only takes up a fraction of the building, the rest of which is given over to medal games, darts, a manga café, and a pool hall (where you can get a beer).
Heading out to Kawasaki for a night at a game centre might seem like a bit of a trek, but this place is special. The game selection is top drawer and, ironically given its styling, it was cleaner and more spacious than anything in the middle of Tokyo. The theme park presentation and non-videogame activities might even give you a chance of convincing less game-obsessed acquaintances to join you.
Here it is on Google Maps. Take the train to Kawasaki station and it’s an easy ten-minute walk.
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Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people