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Brett Plotz is a tour leader for InsideJapan – and a bona fide video game nerd. He spent several years living in rural Yamaguchi Prefecture, and is now based in Yokohama, from where he leads some of our fantastic group tours.
For many people, video games are a part of life. Bringing in billions of dollars each year, the industry has grown exponentially since its birth a few decades ago. You can’t walk down the street or turn on the television without seeing kids in Minecraft shirts or adults catching Pokemon on their phones.
But for a certain age group (of which I’m a member) video games are synonymous with Japan. Playing Nintendo as a kid at a friend’s house, or being sure to take along thousands of extra batteries for the Gameboy on a roadtrip are indelible memories of growing up. Those old retro games will always have a place in the hearts of millions of those who grew up in that era.
If you’re coming to Japan and want to relive some of those memories, then you’re in luck. A new exhibition has recently opened near Tokyo, focusing on retro video games from the 1980s and 90s – the period they call the “Golden Age of Video Games”.
Located in Saitama, a short train ride from Tokyo proper, the exhibition is the second of a three-part series on video games and how they are integrated with Japan’s (and the world’s) history. It’s also a fantastic blast of nostalgia for all the old classics.
Upon entering the exhibition hall, it becomes crystal clear this experience is not only a history lesson, but a hands-on one. Arcade machines, as well as almost every console you can think of, are all hooked up and ready to play for free.
The exhibition focuses on the shift from arcade gaming to console gaming, and between those two you’ll definitely find something worthwhile to play.
Besides the plethora of actual games to play, the exhibition takes visitors on a historical journey as well. The walls are chock full of historical game memorabilia, from original artwork to piano scores. There is also a corner with old advertisements and press material as well. If you ever wanted to see the original drawings of Xevious, then this is the exhibition for you!
Part of the exhibition also serves as a museum, with consoles and games set up under glass. If you’ve never seen a full setup of ROB the Robot or the Famicom cassette and typing accessories, then you haven’t lived.
Of course, there is also just the option to play games until the place closes down for the night, like I did. Everything from Marble Madness, to Gradius, to Megaman 2 are all up and ready to play. You should go and at least try to beat my time on Excitebike, impossible though that may be.
Whether you’re a gaming history buff, a collector, or just want to relive your childhood, this exhibition is for you. If you can’t make it, no worries. The video game scene in Japan is alive and well, and there are events like this happening regularly during the year. If you want something a little more tailored, and want to get the inside scoop on where Inside Japan Tour Leaders go to game, you could always look in to our video game tour!
Open: Sept 10, 2016 – March 12, 2017
Hours: 9:30 – 17:00
Closed: Mondays (next weekday in case of national hols) / Nov 14 – special opening (?) / New Year hols Dec 29 – Jan 3
Admission: Adult 510 yen / Child 250 yen
Tel: 048 265 2500
Address: 彩の国ビジュアルプラザ 映像ミュージアム, 3-12-63 Kamiaoki, Kawaguchi, Saitama 333-0844, Japan