Saturday, July 24, 2010

Japan Trip - Part 6

Ever wondered what Japanese malls and arcades are like? Well wonder no more!

You may be surprised to learn that malls in Japan are pretty much the same as malls in America and Canada. Aside from the content, just walking around them is the same as walking around Woodbine or Square One or the Eatons Centre. It's not until you closely examine the products that you discover the differences. One of the coolest things I'd seen there were ice cream pizzas. I tried some green tea ice-cream... it wasn't that great... but it was the cheapest thing on the menu... cheaper than vanilla even!

Scoping out some music stores you can find plenty of anime soundtracks and a large helping of both local Japanese music as well as Western English artists. There was plenty of anime related soundtracks there too, including, of course, pop sensation Hatsune Miku, the singing computer generated idol created by Yamaha. I checked out a music store for a friend to check out some Les Paul guitars, but I didn't find any. They were mostly Rickenbacker and other brands. They also had plenty of pianos there too. One weighted key piano which was playing itself too. I like the posable mannequins they have in the clothing stores as well, quite ingenius, I wonder why I haven't seen them anywhere else...

I checked out some book stores and toyshops. Lots of manga and other merchandise to be found. I even found the 'Voices of a Distant Star' Manga, hopefully it'll come out over here soon, the Labyrinth will definately have it in if many of you are interested! The artwork is pretty good in it too! Sure enough, Evangelion is insanely popular here, also not a surprise considering the recent movie releases.

Of course the coolest place in the mall that I spent some time at, as well as in another place outside the mall, are the arcades! There are video games, slot machines, vending machine games and pachinko parlours! These places are huge!!! And the prizes are pretty rare and costly providing you've got the skill! There's plenty of popular ones like Street Fighter as well as many other things not seen in any other countries outside of East Asia. Some of these things need to be seen to be believed! There's oversized Tetris machines! Some games with input devices that really require physical fitness and hand eye coordination to work. There's Gundam robot piloting games inside pods shaped like the cockpit with a screen that surround you on all sides! Some of the slot and pachinko machine designs are crazy! Like you don't know where the screen ends and where the machine beings! Hell even Mario has his own machines! You haven't played Mario Party until you've played it like this! The lights, the flashing, the balls everywhere! These are some of the craziest contraption you'll ever see and it's pure visual overload! Even games we take for granted like Mario Kart have arcade editions that are different in a lot of ways from what you play on the console. Not only do they have Mario Kart Arcade... they have Mario Kart Arcade 2! And not just Mario Kart Arcade 2... Mario Kart Arcade 2 GT!!!

Some of the other machines are just out of this world. I see games where kids and adults bet on horse races. I saw games where people buy collectible cards of characters and real sports personalities and use them to control the action on screen by placing them on a surface and moving them around with their hands! There are things here like you wouldn't believe! It's too bad arcades died out in North America... The Japanese are reaching for the moon with some of these things...

There are also photo booths where schoolgirls gather and go inside to take fun shots. I fearfully ventured into this area just to see what it was like. Some are small booths with a curtain where you have touchscreens that let you customize your images and add special things. Some booths are larger with room for a group of people, with lighting setups inside that simulate good photographic setups, talk to you and give you instructions, play music to get you in the mood, composite you on backgrounds and other cool things. Girls love it!

The vending machines are hard to win anything, but the payout is big if you do. Some people are masters at this sort of thing, but you've got to be really clever and skillful to win!

Check out more in the mesmerizing video below: