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    Posted: 30 March 2012 at 8:57pm
Japan Honeymoon 2011
Earlier on this year me and my wifey had our honeymoon in Japan.  This is our itinery.  Over the coming weeks I'll be posting about some of the highlights. 
                   
                  
Sat 27th Aug

Ikebukero - Arrive midday  
Chill / relax / have a look around

Sun 28th Aug
Day:
Harajuku / Meiji Shrine

Afternoon:
Ikebukero � Cat Caf�

Evening:
Shibuya:
Shibuya Kaikan Monaco Arcade
Dinner at Maruhachi Jamaican Restaurant

Mon 29th Aug

Akihabara:  
PCB shopping
Hey Arcade
Try Amusement Tower
Super Potato retro game shop / arcade

Tues 30th Aug
Morning:
Roppongi:
Mori Tower - Tokyo City View Observation Deck
Tokyo Tower

Lunch:
Tokyo Curry Lab (at base of Tokyo Tower)

Afternoon:
Shinjuku:
Tokyo Metropolitan buildings - observation decks
Note: this place has guided tours, view is best at dusk

Evening:
Tsunahachi Tempura restaurant

Wed 31st  Aug

Travel to Osaka  
Den Den Town

Thurs 1st Sept

Koya mountain trip
Okunoin cemetry trek
Overnight stay at Shojoshin-in

Fri 2nd Sept

Up 6am for prayers with the monks
Travel back to Osaka
Aquarium Kaiyukan 1200 - 1500hrs
Spa World 1600 - 2000hrs
Dotombori

Sat 3rd Sept
Morning:
Den Den Town

Evening:
Travel to Hiroshima

Sun 4th Sept

Visit Miyajima Island & the shrine of Itsukushima-jinja
Climb Misen-San

Mon 5th Sept
Morning:
Hiroshima:
Visit A-bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park & The Peace Memorial Museum

Afternoon:

Travel to Kobe
Have a look round Motomachi and Sannomiya stations
Tetsujin 28 - 18m tall robot in Wakamatsu Park
      

Evening:
Travel back to Tokyo

Tues 6th Sept

Akihabara

Wed 7th Sept

Odeiba / Joypolis

Evening:
Food shopping at Family Mart - pic-nic in hotel room

Thurs 8th Sept
Morning:
Nakano - Mandarake Broadway Mall

Afternoon:
Takadanobaba - BIG BOX department store & Mikado arcade

Evening:
Dinner at Park Hyatt Tokyo (Lost in Translation)

Fri 9th Sept

Arcades / shopping Akihabara
Natsuge Museum

Sat 10th Sept

Leave Tokyo 1130am :(
  


Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:02pm
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Ikebukuro


Ikebukuro.  At the centre of this vast entertainment and commercial district stands Ikebukuro Station, the second busiest railway station surpassed only by Shinjuku Station.  We got the Narita Express train and arrived at the station.  The station handles over a million passengers per day and for those uninitiated, it's pretty overwhelming and feels like a giant ant hive. 

Loaded with our cases and back packs, and tired from the long journey, we began our trek to Sunshine City Palace Hotel, which was an experience in itself.  As we trekked through the streets to our hotel, manoeuvring our cases past the surge of people, retailers announced their products via microphones.  Girls dressed as maids handed out all manner of items including fans and tissues.  It was a good introduction to modern Japan.

We arrived at Sunshine City Palace Hotel, and the staff greeted us with some cold hand towels, which were most welcome after our walk in the afternoon heat.  The hotel is part of a large shopping and entertainment complex.  We really enjoyed our stay there.  We had an awesome view from our room, there was a Family Mart on the ground floor and a Starbucks within close proximity.  Japan Starbucks are better than the ones we have in the West, offering sausage pie for breakfast and a better selection of cakes.  My wifey was particularly fond of baumkuchen pastries which are round cakes with a hole in the middle, made up of many layers.
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View from our room.
I have fond memories of Ikebukuro.  The awesome sushi bar that put a miniature Union Jack flag on our sushi.  The old chain smoking chestnut seller working late into the night.  The cool arcades Iand the Super Potato retro game store tucked away down one of the side streets.  Yes Ikebukuro was pretty awesome. 

????? ????
 Some pics of an interesting looking love hotel.
?



Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:02pm
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Ikebukuro Arcade Game Centres
Here are some pics of arcades we found in Ikebukuro

Game Park Ramble Plaza
This arcade had a good selection of vintage titles, including several Mahjong cabs.  Check out the awesome Cyber Lead cabinets!


















Game Safari
Mostly LCD cabs featuring Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, very popular.












Ikebukuro GiGo
A nice mix of LCD and CRT cabs.  Has a small retro section and a range of Cave shooters as well as the latest fighting games.  Unsurprisingly, a large number of awesome looking Sega Lindbergh cabs featuring Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown.














Playland Las Vegas
A small arcade featurning some vintage titles as well as the latest fighting games.












St. Tropez
An arcade featuring the latest dedicated machines.  The first time I got to play the awesome Darius Burst: Another Chronicle.






















Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:02pm
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Akihabara

Every time the train slows down as it approaches the station and the female voice announces �Akihabara�Akihabara' over the speaker and the little jingle kicks in, I still get that same feeling of excitement, like a kid on Christmas morning.  Why?  Because Akihabara still has the best arcades and videogame stores in the world!




Whether shopping for arcade PCB's or console games, I really enjoy doing the rounds with my list of wants, trying to find that elusive title.  And more often then not, stumbling across a title that's not on the list but is an essential purchase all the same! Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti for the Famicom springs to mind.  This was an impulse buy as it was mint, cheap, has awesome cover art and its Splatterhouse!  Other impulse buys include Lemmings and Jurassic Park for the Megadrive, and Super Star Wars and Bomber Man B-Daman for the Super Famicom.


Sadly the number of videogame stores and space in stores devoted to gaming has declined over recent years and prices have increased, chances are items can be found for less on Yahoo Japan.  However, bargains can still be found and you can't beat having the item in your hands, knowing the exact condition before purchase.  And it's awesome seeing shelves full of Famicom, Super Famicom, Megadrive, Sega Saturn, PC Engine and Neo Geo AES games in excellent condition.

Some pics from "Trader" videogame store










Some pics from "Friends", next to G-Front




There are three PCB shops in Tokyo: Try, Mak Japan and G-Front.  During my stay I ended up buying titles from each store.  I took a list of wants to each shop and asked them to write down the price of each title, along with a tick or cross to indicate the inclusion of original art.  In each shop the PCB's are tested before purchase.


Mak Japan
On my visit one staff member spoke very good English.  A lot of PCB's are on shelves so you can browse through the titles.  The more expensive titles such as Cave kits are in a glass cabinet.  I was very happy to see Fire Barrel in the cabinet, but this turned to disappointment when I went to the counter only to find the big blue sign on it meant �sold out' Gutted.  Thankfully though, after years of looking, I've since managed to find this. 








I was also tempted by Spica Adventure, the last platform game developed by Taito, for the Type-X system.  Despite trying to avoid PC based hardware, I've always wanted to play this and have never seen it before in any arcade.  I went back a bit later to buy it only to find I was too late, it was already sold.  The wife had more luck though and picked up Mighty Pang (CPSII) for a mere 3000 Yen.








Try
Located at the top of Try Amusement Tower arcade.  Again you can browse through most titles.  The staff speak very little English, so it's best to be prepared with a list of wants in case you can't find the titles your after.  The prices were generally the cheapest.  Here I picked up Bubble Memories (Taito F3) for a very reasonable 8000 Yen as well as a couple of MVS titles. 




G-Front
This shop has the largest selection, however most of the PCB's are behind the counter.  The staff were very patient.  Although I was very happy with the service I received from each store, my wifey actually preferred this one.  However this may partly be down to them having Pipe Dream, the game at the top of her want list!  I was pleased to pick up 1944: The Loop Master (CPSII), Strikers 1999 (Psikyo), Godzilla (Banpresto) and a couple of MVS titles.

















Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:03pm
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Mori Tower & Tokyo Tower
Mori Tower � Roppongi

 
Mori Tower was a nice surprise.  It only got a brief mention in our �Rough Guide' travel book but we wanted to visit Tokyo Tower and it was close by so we thought we'd give it a look.  I'm really glad we did.  The views from the observation deck were stunning and it was nice taking some time out, relaxing and enjoying the amazing views. 






There were a range of cafes and bars.  My wife sampled one of the unusual cocktails, which was quite literally smokin! 


As I sat there, chilling out with a nice cold beer, I spotted a familiar logo on one of the buildings�


Konami HQ!

We also took some time to have a look around the very nice aquarium at the top of the tower.





As we left the building I somehow managed to persuade the wife to deviate slightly from our itinery and go and find Konami HQ.  It was only a short walk away and we eventually located the imposing entrance doors. 


My wife sat down on one of the benches, sighed and said �Whatever your about to do I don't want to be part of it'.  With that, I said I wouldn't be long and opened the entrance doors.

There were two girls on the reception desk.  I told them I was a massive fan of Konami, especially the Gradius and Castlevania series.  The girls were really friendly, I asked about Hideo Kojima.  Apparently he worked in the building, but they didn't say if he was there or not.  I asked if there was any chance of a look around the Konami office but they said it wasn't open to the public and sadly it wasn't to be.  I did briefly consider employing some stealth tactics, avoiding the security cameras to get a better look around but remembered the wifey was outside, probably getting grumpier by the minute! 

I left Konami HQ and went to take a look at the nearby Konami souvenir shop the reception girls had told me about.  I purchased some very nice Metal Gear Solid art books from the store.  Check out the Vic Viper model kits!





Tokyo Tower


When we got to Tokyo Tower, our first stop was the �Tokyo Curry Lab' restaurant at the base of the tower.  We both opted for the tasting plate which comprised of three pots of curry of varying hotness.  Although none of the curries were that hot, we both really enjoyed our meal and it was very reasonable at 1500 Yen each.

Getting the lift to the top of Tokyo Tower was quite expensive (over 2000 Yen each if I remember rightly) and there was a long queue.  In the end we decided to leave it as we had been up the nearby Mori Tower.

We had a walk round the shops and the various attractions.  There was a small arcade with a couple of old Sega dedicated machines.  Of more interest were the small metal bodied prize arcade cabinets.  You can exchange your Yen for tokens which can be used on these machines to win more tokens, and the tokens can be exchanged for prizes.  The machines featured a variety of mini games and typically only had one button.  One machine was a variant of Bomber Man.  Another machine featuring characters from the Parodius series had you using the button to fire arrows at balloons.   









Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:03pm
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A night on Koya-san

Our destination was Koya-san, some 50km south of Osaka, one of Japan's holiest mountains.  The town itself is in a high, ceder-filled valley near the top of the mountain, 800m above sea level.  This group of temples among the clouds is a complete contrast to the futuristic sensory overload of modern Japan city life.


We took the train from Osaka's Namba Station to Gokurakubashi Station (journey time around 1 � hours), and then a cable car to Koya-san Station (5 minutes).


We admired the views as the cable car started its slow ascent up the mountain.  As I was taking pictures, there was someone else doing the same � Hori-san.  A well travelled Japanese resident, this was his first time to Koya-san as well.  Good natured and very friendly, we were privileged to have him join us for this part of our journey, we made a good friend and we're still in contact.



At the top of the cable-car station we took the 5 minute bus ride along the winding road through cool, dark cryptomeria forests to Shojoshin-in, our temple lodging for the night. 




On arrival we were greeted by a monk.  We exchanged our shoes for sandals and after wiping our luggage over with a cloth, our monk showed us to our room and explained the meal and bath times. He warned us of the incoming typhoon.  We had seen pictures the previous day on television.  The weather had been windy in Osaka, but so far we had been fortunate in managing to avoid the worst of it.




Our room was Japanese style overlooking beautiful gardens.  On the table were two origami doves and a note, congratulating us on our marriage.  It was a lovely gesture and meant a lot to us.  During our stay the monks made us feel really welcome. 




After dropping off our bags, we left the temple and started our walk through the mysterious forest of Okunoin.  Koya-san's vast cemetery, the forest floor is scattered with more than 200,000 stone stupas of all shapes and sizes.  A large number of historical characters are also buried here.  Wondering slowly along the mystical 2km path, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the cemetry's spiritual centre.



It started to rain.  And rain.  And rain.  We took shelter beneath a temple roof where me, my wife and Hori-san chatted while waiting for the rain to ease.  I'm not sure if it was just getting married, or being back in Japan, or making a new friend, or the religious overtones of the forest, but it seemed like a pretty special moment.




As we headed back we found this Panasonic grave.  To Hori-san's great amusement this picture was taken with my Panasonic camera.  When we got back to the entrance, Hori-san had to rush to catch the bus back to the cable car station so we said our goodbyes.


Back in our temple, it was time to enjoy a traditional Japanese bath.  There were two baths, one for men and one for women.  Fortunately I had the bath all to myself.  Large, wooden and filled to the brim with piping hot water, the bath was immensely relaxing. 

After the bath it was time to get ready and go for tea.  The meal was excellent, consisting of seasonal vegetable and tofu-based dishes cooked without meat, fish onion or garlic seasoning.  A lot of the dishes we were unable to identify, but it was delicious and beautifully presented.  It was still raining heavily and rained throughout the night.




The next morning at 6am we attended prayers with the monks.  The monk's chanting was captivating and strangely hypnotic.  During the ceremony, the monk who had shown us to our room invited us to prey with him.  Up in this beautiful, mysterious mountain-top hideaway, the monks have their own strict way of life, their lives devoted to their religion.  During our stay they showed us warmth and kindness.  It's clear they're very friendly people and accepting of other cultures and beliefs different from their own.


The rain had stopped.  It was a beautiful day.  The mountain top air felt cool and refreshing.  We thanked the monks for their amazing hospitality, said goodbye and set off back to Osaka.  Koya-san was an unforgettable experience.

 


Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:10pm
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Sights from Osaka
Dotombori-dori is ablaze with neon lights of large billboards and TV screens, all flashing modern commercial messages.  The rain seems endless and the streets are awash with umbrellas as crowds scurry past.  An overhead shuttle announces �A new life awaits you in the off world colonies�.  Well ok, all except the last one!

The infamous Glico Man sign at the Ebusu-bashi bridge.  The sign has been in place for over 70 years.  The company behind the ad, Ezaki Glico, a confectionary manufacturer based in the city, are best known for their caramel candy and Pocky pretzel snacks.




In the Minamai area, Den Den Town, south of Nipponbashi Station, is what Akihabara is to Tokyo.  There are some awesome used game shops, on par with Akihabara.  I picked up an Irem compilation soundtrack CD and some old videogame magazines.  The shop had a nice selection of old videogame magazines dating back to the 80's!















Osaka Aquarium is fantastic!  Located at Tempozan Harbour Village in the Osaka Bay area, the aquarium is constructed so that you wind down between fourteen elongated tanks, each representing a different aquatic environment, from Antarctica to the Aleutian Islands.  This means you can, for example, watch seals basking on the rocks at the top of the tank and see them swimming, torpedo-like, through the lower depths later.  If your in Osaka, this is a must see.  Check out the awesome manta rays, whale sharks and (my personal favourite) Napoleon Wrasse.







A couple more random pictures taken in Osaka.






Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:10pm
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Osaka Arcade Game Centres

During our stay in Osaka we found time to check out some arcades, and they didn't disappoint! 

Nanboya Arcade
We found this totally by chance.  Such a cool little arcade, with an awesome selection of classic metal bodied cabinets:  Irem Madonna's, Namco Consolette, Pony's, Konami Domy Jr, Nintendo Vs, SNK Candy Cabinets.  To finally see all these awesome cabinets at once in a proper Japanese arcade was pretty amazing.  It made me happy to find places like this still exist.  While I was taking pictures and drooling over the amazing cabinets, the wife was happy playing Bomber Man World on the Blast City!



















Taito Station - Osaka
Here I played some more Darius Burst.  There was a book for fans to write comments and exchange tips which was pretty cool.  Also there was a small but excellent shooter section featuring Raiden II, DoDonPachi II � Bee Storm, and Mushihime-sama Cave Matsuri Ver. 1.5.








Sega Avion
This arcade had a nice selection of old and new titles.  It's pretty awesome that tournaments are held here for classic titles such as Buriki One and Fighter's History.











Game Centre in Mall next to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Not much of interest here, but I was pleased to finally play Castlevania � The Arcade.  A bit like House of the Dead with a whip, it was actually pretty fun.





Game Amuseum
Mostly LCD cabs, but there was a small retro section.  Best of all though � Giant Tetris!








Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:09pm
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Hiroshima


The Peace Memorial Museum
People were eerily silent as they walked round the various exhibits, learning about the bomb and its horrific effects.  The lead up to the bombing is explained and there are two models of the city, before and after the explosion.  Displays explain the after effects of the bomb, detailing the plight of the survivors and showing us their appalling injuries.  We were really impressed with how the museum seems impartial, presenting the facts and a balanced picture of why the atrocity took place.  It's kind of surreal walking out of the museum into the Peace Memorial Park, the bustling city just beyond the greenery, images of absolute devastation still fresh in our minds.


The Peace Memorial Park

A-bomb Dome
Here are some pictures of the twisted shell of the Industrial Promotion Hall, built in 1914 and now better known as the A-bomb Dome.  Almost at the hypocentre of the blast, the hall was one of the few structures in the surrounding 3km that remained standing.





Children's Peace Monument
Here is the Children's Peace Monument, a statue of a young girl standing atop an elongated dome and holding aloft a giant origami crane � the symbol of health and longevity.  At the monument's base are thousands of multicoloured cranes, folded by schoolchildren from all over Japan and many other countries, a tradition that started with radiation victim Sasaki Sadako who fell ill with leukaemia in 1955.  The 12-year old started to fold cranes on her sick bed in the hope that if she reached 1000 she'd be cured; she died before reaching her goal, but her classmates continued after her death and went on to build this monument. 



The Memorial Cenotaph
Underneath the arch lies a stone coffin holding the names of all the direct and indirect A-bomb victims and beside it burns the Flame of Peace, which will be put out once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed.   






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Hiroshima Arcade Game Centres

Joyo

This arcade had a small retro section.


It was here I discovered another gem � Argus no Senshi, or Rygar: The Legendry Adventure as it's known as in the West.  Developed by Tecmo and released in 1986, the game is a fantasy themed scrolling platform game.  I only played a few credits, but the game was a lot of fun and I never knew this series started out in the arcades.


Vs. Super Mario Bros.  The game is more difficult than the Famicom version.  Later stages are changed entirely, and reappeared in the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels for the Famicom Disc System.


Another nice find was Hang-On Jr.  A stripped down version of Hang-On made to run for Sega System E hardware, the game has inferior graphics and sound.  Still, the game played well and the wooden cabinet was pretty cool, like a miniature version of the Western equivalents.




Some more pictures of the arcade.





Taito Station


A very nice selection, including the latest fighters, a nice selection of shooters (Cave titles, Darius-G, Darius Gaiden, Strikers 1945 II, R-Type II), and some classics (Hammerin' Harry, Makaimura / Ghost n � Goblins, Final Fight). 

Final Fight and Alien vs. Predator are still popular and featured in many of the arcades we visited.

It was also the only arcade where I saw Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.













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Miyajima Island & the shrine of Itsukushima-jinja

It was a hot sunny day and the destination was Miyajima.  From Hiroshima we got to the island by a combination of tram, train and ferry.  The most famous attraction on Miyajima is the shrine of Itsukushima-jinja, just to the south of the port.  The iconic O-torii rising grandly out of the sea is considered one of Japan's most beautiful views. 


From the ferry landing we walked along the seafront to the shrine, passing by many other tourists, mostly Japanese as well as tame deer.  The deers like nothing better than posing with you and having their picture taken, especially if you have something for them to eat! 







The plan was just a half-day trip to Miyajima, but we were really enjoying ourselves on the island and decided to go up the 530m Misen-san, Miyajima's sacred mountain.  After lunch we walked to the cable car station at Momiji-dani-koen, a twenty-minute hike from the ferry terminal.  From there we took the two stage cable-car ride up the mountain.  The walk from here to the mountain summit was around twenty minutes, passing various small temples along the way.  The panoramic views across the Inland Sea were stunning.













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An afternoon in Kobe
After our visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, we got the Shinkansen to Shin Kobe Station, and then got the train to Sannomiya Station in downtown Kobe.


There were two main things we really wanted to do during our brief visit:
1.  Go and see Tetsujin 28, an 18m tall, fifty tonne replica of the famous manga and anime robot.  Because robots are cool, especially giant robots.
2.  Try Kobe beef.  Because it's not every day you get the opportunity.


We had a quick look in Namco Land.  Disappointingly the arcade featured mostly prize redemption machines and modern titles such as Tekken 5, Mario Kart GP and Border Break and was devoid of any classic Namco cabinets and retro delights.


We started walking through the shopping arcades which shadow the train tracks between Sannomiya and Motomachi stations, heading towards Wakamatsu Park where Tetsujin 28 is located.

During our journey we came across this sad sight:


Two neglected, sorry looking New Astro City's sitting outside an arcade.  I had a quick look inside the arcade only to find UFO catchers and photo booth machines.  One wonders what this arcade used to be like a decade or so ago.


After walking for at least an hour, we realised we were probably only around a third of the way there.  And it began to rain.  With time ticking on we managed to find a train station and took the JR line to Shin Nagata station, the station closest to Wakamatsu Park.  After a short journey we were there!



The Tetsujin robot monument is a symbol of Kobe's revival following the catastrophic earthquake in 1995, and is a reminder of the continuing spirit and effort of Kobe citizens in rebuilding their city.  Wakamatsu Park area was hardest hit by the earthquake.  Tetsujin dwarfs the neighbouring Daimaru department store as it strides across a plaza, his metal fists striking a punch.


The quest to try some Kobe beef proved somewhat difficult.  I'm not sure why, but I kind of imagined it being readily available on skewers in the shopping arcades, cooked over a BBQ.  Sadly we could only see it advertised in restaurants costing more than we had anticipated.  We asked inside a butcher's where we could try some, and they recommended we go back to the Sannomiya Station area as there were lots of Kobe beef restaurants around there.  We were planning on travelling back to Tokyo that evening so it seemed like a good idea.  After looking around, we eventually bit the bullet and went into one of the restaurants.  We were in for a treat.  Chefs prepared the food on grills in front of us.  We opted for one normal steak and one Kobe beef steak, the chef sliced it into small pieces so we could easily share it.  The Kobe beef was delicious, having lovely texture and a superb, distinctly different taste.  It came to just over 10,000 Yen, expensive but well worth it as we had a lovely meal and I would have always regretted not trying it.





We then headed back to Shin Kobe Station and took the Shinkansen back to Sunshine City.  With our bellies full and the adventures of the last few days taking their toll, I think I slept the whole journey.




Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:07pm
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A day beside the seaside in futuristic Tokyo
Odaiba is an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay.  It's also a great day out.  The name Odaiba means �cannon emplacements�, referring to the defences set up in the bay by the shogun in 1853 to protect the city.  Getting to Odaiba via the futuristic Rainbow Bridge, it feels like a high tech British seaside resort.  And yet strangely enough, with Decks Tokyo Beach it even captures some of that old school seaside town charm sadly missing today from many of its British counterparts.

Rainbow Bridge links Odaiba to mainland Tokyo.  This 918-metre-long, single span suspension bridge has two levels, the lower for the waterfront road and the monorail, and the upper for the Metropolitan Expressway. 

At night, the illuminated Rainbow Bridge, giant technicolour Ferris wheel and twinkling towers of the Tokyo skyline makes it a sight to behold.


Fronting Odaiba's man-made beach are a couple of linked shopping malls, Aqua City and Decks Tokyo Beach.  The latter has an awesome retro arcade (more on this in a future blog) as well as Sega Joypolis. 


Next to the mall is the awesome Fuji TV Building, a futuristic block with a huge metal sphere suspended in its middle.  This is quite possibly my favourite building in the world, I never tire at looking at it!



  
A short walk away is Palette Town, a vast shopping and entertainment complex.  Here you can also find Mega Web, a showcase for Toyota's range of cars and the giant Ferris wheel.

Getting back to Sega Joypolis, this was our second visit.  We last came here around three years ago. 

The bob sleigh game has been replaced with Storm-G, a new futuristic version.  One or two players can sit in each sleigh, both players having a twin joystick set up similar to Virtua On.  Me and the wife shared a sleigh and both players work together to steer the sled.  At particular moments you must press the buttons on the joysticks to gain speed.  As you do this the sled spins 360 degrees.  If both players press the button in sync the sled spins 720 degrees.  Great fun, but probably best not to go on this straight after lunch!  Before starting each of the main attractions, there is a safety talk in Japanese.  We were shown cards with English instructions on them.  On some games there is a running live commentary.  Of course its all in Japanese but to my amusement during our go on Storm-G I did hear the commentator say �Team England' from time to time.  Me and the wife done England proud by beating the other three contestants!

Sega's Storm-G youtube video  

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My favourite game is still the awesome House of the Dead 4 Special, were your strapped into a chair which spins round as you mow down hoards of crazed zombies and other unsavoury characters with your trusty Uzi.  Great fun!

Other attractions include Let's Go Jungle! Special, Hummer - a jeep based racing game, Burnout Running - a tread mill based running game (just watching this one is tiring!), and Spin Bullet - an indoor spinning roller coaster.



We had a great time at Sega Joypolis.  An adult day passport is 3500 Yen (after 1700hrs its 2500 Yen).  For this you can go on the main attractions as many times as you like.  Also we generally didn't have to wait long to go on the rides with most queues only lasting a couple of minutes.  I think the longest we had to wait was around 15 minutes. 

Here are some more pictures of Odaiba and Sega Joypolis:










Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:07pm
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Odaiba Arcade Game Centres
Decks Tokyo Beach

Imagine if you could go back in time to an arcade in a traditional British seaside resort back in the 80's / early 90's.  Tunes from Street Fighter and OutRun and Hang-On intermingle and create an intoxicating atmosphere as people wait patiently for their turn.

Now add some awesome Japanese candy cabinets from the same era. 

You've just imagined Decks Tokyo Beach arcade.



The machines are all fully working and in beautiful condition.  It was awesome seeing Sega City's and a Capcom Status 18, as well as more modern dedicated cabinets such as Tokyo Wars and Virtua Cop 1&2.  And that OutRun cabinet�..simply beautiful.

















Palette Town Game Centre � Tokyo Leisureland


This venue used to be the infamous Neo Geo World, featuring rows of machines showcasing Neo Geo titles, as well as rides, bowling, karaoke, restaurants, shopping and cinema.  Although NGW and the awesome SNK candy cabinets are sadly long gone, it's nice that the venue still houses an arcade featuring many dedicated machines, old and new.  A word of warning though, this was also one of the most expensive arcades with a lot of the newer machines 200 Yen / credit!
















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Kit Kats and other goodies
I received this awesome package today from Rancor over on the Shmups forum.  The package contained GameSide Shooting Vol.04, an OutZone Doujin Superplay D.V.D. and a nice selection of Kit Kats (conveniently just in time for Valentines Day!).





Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:06pm
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From High-Rise to the Underground

Saturday 11th February 2012.  It was an icy cold night as I waited outside Iceni Warriors Gym, Norwich.  I was there for the Capcom UK Fight Club Tour, a chance to check out the latest build of Street Fighter X Tekken.  Stood next to me in the queue was the European Mortal Kombat champion. 



I only had two games on SF X Tekken.  It didn't go well, getting a major thrashing from a girl.  I blame my hands as they were still frozen from waiting outside!    It was cool of Capcom to host this event, a chance to have a few games and chat to fellow players.  I ended up spending most of the evening chatting to a massive R-Type fan about Irem!  The free beers and pizza were very welcome as well.





It was a good evening.  If Fight Club comes to your town, check it out!


Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:06pm
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Akihabara Arcade Game Centres Pt. 1 - Natsuge Museum / Natsu Game Museum
This cool little arcade focuses on vintage games from the mid-80's and older titles.  The arcade is only open on Friday nights (6-11PM) and the weekends after lunch (1-10PM Sat, 1-8PM Sun & Holidays).  We were lucky to fit a visit into our holiday schedule, but I'm pleased we did!

The arcade is a little off the beaten track, located a couple of minutes walk from the main strip, behind Yodobashi. 


On our way to Natsuge Museum, we walked along a dimly lit street, passing by some traditional looking bars packed with Japanese salarymen.



And, erm, this interesting looking venue!


Finally we were there!




In addition to cocktail and candy cabinets, the arcade had a couple of dedicated machines � Quartet 4P, Super Punch-Out!!, and Space Invaders.  With space a premium, dedicated cabs are very rare in Japan.






There are also gaming related goods for sale including sound track CD's, gachapon, books and GameSide magazines, and models.


The arcade also hosts events and theme nights so if your planning on visiting, check out their website:

http://www.t-tax.net/natuge/index.html





Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:05pm
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Akihabara Arcade Game Centres Pt. 2 � Try Amusement Tower & Super Potato
Try Amusement Tower


This retro arcade had an awesome selection of titles, including some of my all time faves: Splatterhouse, OutZone, Gallop: Armed Police Unit, and Midnight Resistance.  I had a couple of credits on Midnight Resistance.  It was awesome playing this again with the rotary control sticks. 














It was also nice to see Fast Striker, a vertical shooter by the German indie developer  NG:DEV.TEAM in a Japanese arcade.


And also Donkey Kong II, a fan made sequel.


Mushihime-sama Cave Matsuri Ver. 1.5


A nice feature is that the arcade has a frequent change of titles depending on customer requests.  Here is a link to their blog:



Super Potato Arcade



On the 5th floor of the Super Potato videogame store, there is a cool little retro arcade.  On previous visits to Japan I had been to the store and missed this completely, not knowing it was there.  The highlight for me in this arcade was finding a Neo SC-19 cabinet.  The cabinet could do with a little tlc, but it was awesome seeing one still in use in an arcade.










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Akihabara Arcade Game Centres Pt. 3 � Club Sega Akihabara [New Annex], Taito HEY & Tokyo Leisureland Akihabara 2
Club Sega Akihabara [New Annex]


The arcade featured an awesome retro floor and was one of the few arcades we visited with dedicated Sega cabinets.

















We also got to try Cho Chabudai Gaeshi! (Super Table-Flip!), by Taito.  There are four different scenario's you can choose from: dad and kids, a bride at a wedding, a guest at a host club, and a frustrated office worker.  You must pound the table and as you cause things in the room to clatter to the floor, you score points.  When the game's 60-second timer nears conclusion, you must flip the table and watch as the havoc unfolds in Matrix-style bullet time.  Hilarious, madder than a box of frogs, and utterly brilliant!  

Cho Chabudai Gaeshi! youtube video

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Taito HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard)



This arcade is pretty famous and its reputation is well deserved as one of the landmark arcades in Akihabara.  A truly awesome selection of titles, arguably the best arcade in Japan.  The second floor specialises in shooters.  Watching the Japanese players show off their skills on the Cave games was pretty awesome.  HEY arcade was the venue for the recent location test of Cave's latest game, Dodonpachi Saidai-Oujou.



























Tokyo Leisureland Akihabara 2


This arcade features a good lineup of games.









Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:05pm
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Nakano Broadway Mall


Here are some pictures taken at Nakano Broadway Mall.  Featuring four floors of anime, manga, rare toys and loads of other Japanese Pop Culture goodies, it's pretty awesome.  The Mall can be easily reached from Shinjuku or Akihabara via the Chuo-Sobu line.















There are a couple of small arcade areas within the mall, featuring mostly fighting games.



The videogame store, Mandarake Galaxy had an awesome selection of rare games.  It was here I finally found another title I've been searching for � Karuraou, known as Skyblazer in the West for the Super Famicom.  I had been on the lookout for this title for a good while, checking at all the videogame stores I visited during the holiday.  With just a day to go before coming home, I was well chuffed to finally track it down.






The store also had Tetris for the Megadrive behind a glass display cabinet, one of the rarest and most valuable games for the system.  The game never reached the shelves after a problem arose with the Tetris license giving Nintendo exclusive rights to the game. Apparently there are only ten official Megadrive cartridges in existence.



Curious about the game, I asked the sales assistant about it only to be told it wasn't for sale.

There was also a CD shop close by with a huge selection of videogame sound tracks for sale.


Edited by LukeWells - 30 March 2012 at 9:04pm
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