Japanese Game Arcades – and why you need to visit one!

“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll”

– Shigeru Miyamoto

In Australia, much like the rest of the world, game arcade culture is slowly disappearing, with more and more arcades closing each year.  However the opposite can be said  for arcades in Japan. To date there are 4,650 licensed game arcades in Japan (Japan National Police Agency, 2017), with the majority based in Tokyo.  

I’ve always LOVED game arcades, so you can imagine how excited I was when I stumbled into one with my tour group late last year. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, isles and isles of prize, crane & UFO catchers covered every inch of floor space.  

Now I bet your thinking, is that it? Is that all you wanted to share? What makes Japanese arcades so cool compared to every other arcade I’ve been in?

Well [dramatic pause] the thing is, what makes Japanese game arcades so awesome is that they’re more than one level (i’ll let that sink in for a moment).


Thats right! A typical game arcade in Japan comprises of 5 levels!  Each game  (on every level) roughly sets you back 100-200 yen; but luckily each level is equipped with a coin-swap machine i.e. cash for coins #thereisagod.  I’ve given you a little run down on the levels below , however it will vary arcade to arcade –  mainly because of  the building’s size.

Level 1: Prize, crane & UFO catcher games.

Perfect for a date or if you just want to chill out with some mates! Level 1 is a great time/money waster. Level 1 always leaves your pockets empty so I suggest starting from the top & working your way down if you want to try out some of the more hardcore games. That being said don’t be afraid to spend money on this level (especially if you are on a date!) as the prizes are totally worth it!

level 1 tip: If you’re a girl  (sorry for being sexist but this doesn’t work as well if you’re a guy) go up to the guy working in the arcade & tell him that the game is too hard – he makes it easier for you! I’M BEING SERIOUS HERE!  I am a total noob (sad excuse for a gamer) who desperately wanted a Chopper-kun (One Piece character) plush toy. I went over to the arcade worker and sweetly asked if he could help me win the toy… AND HE DID! He opened the glass door right up and moved Chopper-kun slightly to the right. I WON HIM!!!!!! I had never been sooooo happy in my life!

Anyway! let’s move to the next level!

Level 1 SEGA Arcade Sunshine City

Level 2 & 3: Gamer Heaven

For hardcore gamers these 2 levels are literally heaven. on Level 2 you’ll find your medal games or ‘token games’. Their kind of like casino machines accept games are played for tokens. On level 3  you will find video games, fighting games, card and puzzle games.  I didn’t spend any time playing games on these levels, mainly because well I’m not a massive gamer and level 4 looked way too tempting!

Level 4:

This is one of my favourite levels because it’s all about simulation. Car racing, bike racing, shooting, robot battle pods, music, rhythm & dance games – this level has it all! Level 4 is probably where I spent most of my time – the dance machines are unreal! Coincidently a lot of Japanese students spend their time here as well – it’s literally a sea of school uniforms on this level!

Level 4 tip: Play the piano or drum game (as seen in image below), both are intense but so much fun!

lvl 4: Drum game – kind of like guitar hero but with giant drums! Photo credit: @popliciouspaul

Level 5:

Finally my favourite level! Level 5 is home to ‘Purikura’ machines or as I like to call them hundreds of photo booth’s that make you look super Kawaii (cute)! What I love about Puikura machines  is that it isn’t your stock standard self-portrait – you can add cute icons and draw on images; they also come out in sticker form so you can stick that photo of you and your bestie where ever you like!   

Me & ma home girl Sam looking super kawaii ❤

I know that can be a lot of awesomeness to take in so let’s have ourselves a little recap! In Japan, your typical arcade will consist of 5 different levels, with each level having its own theme;  Lvl1: Prize, crane & UFO catcher games,  lvl2: Token games, lvl3: Fighting & card games, lvl4: Simulation games (racing, music, dance etc) and lvl5: Puikura machines (photo booths). Each game will roughly cost around 100-200 yen (so make sure you have spare change handy!). Arcades are pretty to spot as they are the most vibrant and colourful buildings in Japan’s cities.

So remember, next time you’re in Japan check out a game arcade!  

– D



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