Club Sega: A Step Back in Time

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

To see more pictures from my recent trip to Japan, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

/ CR

I’m going to Japan!

After months and months of saving and planning, in just under two weeks time I’ll finally get to tick “Travel to Japan” off my bucket list. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. From a very young age, I developed an interest in Japanese culture without even realising.

It all started when I got a SNES for Christmas, back in the early 90’s. I was brought up on Nintendo – Super Mario Bros. being my introduction to Video Games. My collection included classics such as – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Street Fighter II, Star Fox, Donkey Kong Country and much more. These games were my bread and butter and I sunk countless hours into them as a child. Through my friends, I got introduced to Pokemon, which was a complete phenomenon through the 90’s.

I have vivid memories of how it literally swept the nation and the world for that matter. It was incredible. Everyone was collecting and trading Pokemon cards, watching the TV show or playing the games. I used to watch Pokemon every Saturday morning and weekday nights along with Dragonball/Dragonball Z. I picked up a Gameboy with Tetris, which I still have to this day. I remember the day I got Pokemon Yellow, I went into town with my Mother and little brother. We bought it from a now discontinued gaming store. I came home and spent the rest of the day playing it until the batteries in my Gameboy died. Such great memories.

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Nintendo and PlayStation are my go to platforms when it comes to gaming.

As I got a little older I transitioned to PlayStation, although I still held a strong love for Nintendo. Video Games began to get a little more mature and I began to realise that games weren’t just a pastime for young children. Metal Gear Solid was the game that brought me to that realisation. The story gripped you, the character arcs were incredible and it felt like more than just a game. Final Fantasy VII evoked the same emotions. It was my first introduction to a deep story-driven JRPG, and I absolutely adored it.

You may begin to see a pattern starting to emerge – all of these Video Games, TV shows and various popular culture originate from Japan. This was something I wasn’t aware of at a younger age. The same pattern continued throughout the PS2 era and around the dawn of the PS3. I started to become aware of just how much of an influence Japanese gaming had on me. If it wasn’t for all of these games, I may have never been into gaming as much as I am now. I never knew that I was a fan of Anime, or that I even used to watch it and as I became aware of it I began to watch more of it. The older I got the more I developed a love for Japan, along with its history and culture. It soon became the country I wanted to visit most but it always seemed like a pipe dream. A few year ago my girlfriend and I conceived the idea of visiting Japan through the form a guided tour, but the price just seemed inaccessible and my dream of visiting Japan seemed to wither.

Luckily things changed, we decided to scrap the idea of paying for a guided tour and plan things ourselves. Finally, the dream of the Video Gamer pilgrimage to Akihabara was alive and well. Apart from the usual tourist destinations, Geek culture wise, I plan to visit the Pokemon Centre(s), Animate – The 8-floor Flagship store for everything Anime and Manga related, Nanako Broadway and many others. I’m open to any other recommendations as to where to visit if there are any readers who have visited Japan before or have heard of anywhere that’s recommended?

I’ll be documenting my trip through photography, blog posts and youtube videos. All of which will be done when I get home. Although I will be live updating on Twitter and Instagram while I’m there, if you’d like to follow those feeds. I have a lot of content planned with this trip in mind, I know I have a large number of followers who share this interest of mine so I hope you guys look forward to what will be coming to WhatRhinoSaid over the next few month.

/ CR