The first place I just had to visit when I arrived in Akihabara was Club Sega, known as Club Sega Akihabara (クラブ セガ 秋葉原) in Japan. Whenever anyone mentions Akihabara or makes reference to the Electric Town of Tokyo, the first thing that comes to mind for me is this neon-lit street that houses these Sega-branded Arcades, right in the heart of Akihabara. The area in which I visit contained three buildings all of the same style but are counted as three separate entities by Sega, despite being within walking distance of each other.
The entrance to one of the Club Sega buildings, Akihabara, Tokyo.
As I approached what is known as the “Main” building I was in awe how something as vast as these arcades still existed this day in age. Back home in the UK, it’s lucky if you see any arcades at all, never mind something of this nature. What was even crazier was the fact that people were queuing up before the doors opened at 10:00am, more than likely to secure their favourite arcade cabinet in order to play with friends or reach a new high score. The same for the western world may have been apparent twenty to thirty years ago, but it’s something that has almost died out completely, that certainly wasn’t the case in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. It was like stepping back in time.
The first floor contained mainly claw machines in where an array of prizes was showcased at the back of the machine with one prize teetering on a ledge, ready to fall, playing it’s part in luring you in. Most people know that these are a game of chance and luck, the claw mechanism fails to grip the prize until a certain amount of money has passed through the machine. Meaning you could spend an ungodly amount or win the prize on your first go. That didn’t stop the other half diving in with a handful of change.
The ever alluring claw machine that the other half spent all of her change on.
The next few floors above contained various other prize winning games, but what I was really there for were the arcades. As the elevators opened to the next floor, it was apparent why many people still come here to play these games every day. The music blares out from the cabinets as you step back in time to a place where Arcades were as popular as ever. The neon glare from the machines captures its players in a daze. Cheering spectators crowd around popular players, ones who are exhausting their change in order to reach the highest score possible. Some people were even queuing up to play some of the most popular games. It was certainly a sight to behold.
I managed to snap a few pictures of locals playing their favourite games, one hand moving in a lighting quick manner to register the button presses as fast as possible, while the other hand raised a cigarette to their mouths to take another toke. Public smoking is still prohibited in these arcades and the second-hand smoke can still be seen lingering in the air as the neon lights from the arcade machine cut through it. I never expected these Arcades to be as popular and alive as they were, but that’s Japan in general for you. It strips every expectation you had of the place and presents something new.
We spent a few hours in Club Sega in which most of the locals stayed glued to their seats.
I wasn’t looking for another arcade cabinet in particular but while advancing through the many different floors we did manage to stumble across a number of Pokken Tournament cabinets. This is where the Wii U title that released earlier this year was ported from. I stood in line to wait until a fresh set of competitors were brought up to the table. You can see why Nintendo wanted to get this game on a home console, some people were laughing and having fun, while others remained calm, focused and collected as they faced off against other competitors.
This was actually my first time playing Pokken Tournament. I loved it so much that as soon as I got home I picked up a copy along with a Hori tournament controller.
Before we left we noticed a wall where many had shown their love for Club Sega, leaving their mark in the form of manga sketches, appreciative notes or just a general message stating who they were. My girlfriend decided to add a note to the wall in order to commemorate our visit to Club Sega. The place itself is a spectacle, I expected something different, wrongly comparing the place to the arcades back home, where in reality, the place thrives with people from all ages and walks of life. If you are visiting Japan and are in Akihabara, this is definitely worth a trip and somewhere I wouldn’t think twice to visit again if I were to return to Tokyo.