Hi-Tech Lo-Life

Shibuya Sega: a down-and-out dive for the can’t-grow-ups.

Sega’s renovating shopfronts all over town and even opening new arcades. But if you head to Shibuya – tourist hotspot, nightlife centre, youth magnet, couple city – you’ll be surprised. Still carrying the Hi-Tech Land branding of the 90s*; still buzzing neon when no one buzzes neon anymore; the sign looks like it’s either half falling off or pointing at the basement. Neither is true. That’s just what the 90s were like – all at a jazzy angle. Looks like a mistake now.

Inside’s the same. Drab, cleaned for 20 years and no longer cleanable. No 20-y-o games as consolation. UFO catchers and kiddy-card spitters. One flat, low-ceiling floor that feels like a basement but isn’t. One grown man on the kiddy machines. Two kids talking UFO prizes but not playing. A Saturday boy walking off the hours in a Sega ball-jacket, UFO keys on a bungee, radio on the belt.

Why not smarten up a prime location? Oddly, the over-the-road Taito Station is similarly unsplendorous. What’s going on? Not the coolest bit of Shibuya, sure, but still Shibuya.

* Hi-Tech Land was a Sega umbrella brand set up with a bunch of arcades in the 90s. Plenty of the actual arcades remain, but whenever Sega gets round to a freshen-up, they lose their Hi-Tech frontage and just get the weak red-n-blues of the late 2010s. Trashing the old with no idea what new looks like.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people