Here’s another post with terrible photos – please forgive me for posting these, but I couldn’t resist the subject, a massive himalayan cedar growing right out of the foundations of a little convenience store in central Tokyo! As all connoisseurs or “shitamachi”, or the classical “downtown” areas of Tokyo knows, Yanaka is one of the best. Situated on a high field overlooking Ueno to south and famous mainly for the many tiny temples and one massive cemetery, Yanaka is popular with locals preserving the low, single or double storied architecture of the area. It’s surprisingly easy to miss and I often wonder how it has managed to escape the lure of the property development people as the location must be really attractive. I always get lost on the labyrinth like little streets of the area and yesterday I wandered into one of Yanaka’s famous spots, the Himalayan Cedar (ヒマラヤ杉) and the Mikado bread store (みかどパン店)! It’s hard to get a sense of just how massive this tree is, and how sudden and unexpected it is as you come upon it from either one of the three streets meeting at the base of the tree. I used a very wide angle lens to capture it in these photos, but the pictures doesn’t come close to showing how awe inspiring this tree is. I really hope this tree will be around for the joy of future generations hundreds of years to come. The old lady who runs the little convenience store seemed as ancient as the tree itself, and I hope she will last many year to come as well, although I didn’t see the cat which is almost as famous as the store itself.
Last of the vintage arcade games for this time! I took these photos in the same spot as I found the collection of vintage soda cans last year, in a mall in Odaiba. Those computer arcade games are still around in some older games centers around Tokyo, most notably at Nakano’s Broadway shopping arcade (well worth a visit if you’re into retro stuff, blogged previously here and here and here) but the gaming tables are becoming very rare. There’s even a restaurant in Shibuya where you eat on broken old gaming tables. If you are into vintage arcade games chances are you’ll also enjoy their collection of vintage toys. They have some great stuff up there! Of particular interest to Japanese culture freaks, take the chance to check out the old style pachinko machines they have there, before they changed. Old pachinko machines still had an element of skill in the play but modern pachinko machines are basically just slot machines, like the one armed bandits of Las Vegas fame. Someday I’ll have to write about pachinko halls.
Here’s some more vintage arcade games for you! Part 2 of 3. One of these games I actually tried, just because it looked to be the easiest: stick your arm into one of three holes and catch ping balls being blown out from a hole at the bottom, then throw them across into a pig’s mouth at the other end. If you manage to put 30 balls in there during a limited amount of time you get a price. It looked easy but it was really hard! I also couldn’t resist taking a photo (totally unrelated I admit) of a poster in the same shop, showing Japanese idols as they looked in the 70’s. Cute!
Where I grew up we didn’t have game centers or arcades around, so every time me and my family would go abroad I would rush to check out the local arcade games. Back in those days it often meant that the kind of games available varied from country to country, or even city to city! Naturally, all of us kids knew that the best stuff was the Japanese video games, brands such as Namco, Konami and Nintendo were common knowledge to us even though our parents hardly knew the difference between Tokyo and Peking.
I’m not old enough to have any real memories of mechanical coin operated games, when I first got out there Atari’s Gauntlet was top of the line when it came to the arcade games we could lay our hands on. But even before these video games there was a whole range of mechanical games being developed in Japan, and the last place in Tokyo to gather a bunch of these is a shopping mall on the artificial Odaiba island in Tokyo Bay.
Here’s a bunch of photographs I took there last weekend. I have been there dozens of times over the years, but this is the first time I got around to taking pictures instead of just gawking over the ingenuity of these mostly incredibly difficult games. Kids must have been tougher back then. In fact, I took so many pictures I have to divide them into three post, the other two will follow this week. There are far too many games for me to describe them all in detail, so if you want to know more about them feel free to ask me. I have a hunch several of these concepts could be made into really enjoyable cell phone mini games. Enjoy!