On something of a whim I found myself making the hour long trip to Kawasaki last weekend. In my search for ever more obscure and/or zany pastimes and atractions, I had heard of an interestingly themed arcade there. Game centres (as they are generally known) are certainly nothing new in Japan, and given the country’s penchant for jaw-dropping absurdity when it comes to institutions like restaurants and hotels, I figured that this particular establishment was not to be missed.
The number and quality of the arcade machines could not be faulted. Indeed, they have an entire floor devoted to darts, snooker and fake race betting. The strangeness came in the décor, being as it was an apparently very faithful reconstruction of the (in)famous Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong.
Large and lithe alike danced wildly, thumped rhythmically glowing boxes and buttons or twiddled knobs with that calorie-conserving efficiency that only a practiced gamer can call his own amongst delicately hand-painted and rusted street signs, individually torn fliers and speakers playing distant Chinese chatter and rat squeaks. The floor changed from bare concrete to plush patterned carpet with alarming rapidity once I walked past the escalators. Evidently the Japanese proclivity to thematic extravagance doesn’t stretch that far.
Every last detail was thought of. Plug sockets and vending machines had been covered with grimy sheet metal. Tiny windows opened out onto the main square, revealing tiny bedrooms and kitchens. Steam from leaky pipes hissed loudly as unsuspecting would-be photojournalists strolled beneath hidden motion sensors embedded in the rough concrete ceiling. The effect was eerie and strangely awe-inspiring
Given that the city was demolished in 1993, this strange arcade is the closest many of us will ever get to experiencing some part of what that bizarre few hectares must have been like (minus the smells, crowds, real rats, heavy drug use, gang violence, prostitution and claustrophobic reality of the place, of course) for those who lived there. I suspect, however that Dance Dance Revolution would have been a little harder to find.