Day 3: Arcade games are like crack

Osaka Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #4: People don’t stare, but they do constantly glance like middle school girls… maybe they were middle school girls.
It was my first Sunday morning in Japan (if I don’t count that time I came here 6 years ago). I had agreed to meet the Erics somewhere for our next excursion, but they didn’t tell me the location because “they hadn’t planned it yet.” And it so happens that “their cell phone ran out of battery so they couldn’t reach me because I didn’t have a cell phone.” Excuses… excuses… Great, just lead me to a city an hour away from Osaka called Sannomiya, and have me wander around aimlessly for 8 hours. I have never felt so lonely and abandoned in an unknown city surrounded by all those “Asians.” ::sob:: “What’s wrong with their eyes?” ^^ I am excessively using quotations – noted.
It wasn’t actually that bad. I had another two hour commute there, but there are some kind hearted people who are willing to help a frantic tourist in the fetal position of a train seat. Maybe that’s a bit exaggerated. I was actually just doing my Sudoku puzzles and hoping I hear the right station somewhere along the way. In fact, I didn’t look lost at all, except for the whole scene I made in the beginning when I tried to exit the car because I thought I had taken the wrong train. Fortunately for me, this little act of desperation and complete humility made some English speaking Japanese people feel sorry for me. A middle-aged woman started the conversation by asking me where I was going and if I needed help. I tried to communicate in Japanese even though she was very fluent in English. I think she wanted to practice, but so did I. We made some small talk about where I’ve visited and different places to visit around the country. Her kindness gave me faith in humanity, and left me with a smirk throughout the day.
After she had left a few stops ahead, a guy from Texas starts a random conversation with me and gave me directions to great places to eat and underground attractions in Sannomiya. He thought I was from California because of the hair and A|X clothes, but I heard it as a compliment. He let me use his cell phone and helped me add fare to my ticket, so I felt obliged to treat him and his wife to a coffee or something. Apparently a new Ikea opened in Japan and it’s the largest Ikea in the world, so they were in a rush to beat the traffic there.
Oh, by the way, you can put two tickets into the turnstile machine thingy, and the fare will add – very useful for the multiple transfers.
A few more unsuccessful attempts at calling the Erics made me worry they were robbed, kidnapped, and sold to a zoo. It wouldn’t be too bad. The zoo would recreate the environment of our New York apartment and start a business with Japanese people paying to see foreigners in their own habitat. The day dream continued throughout most of the morning, but then I just concluded that they were attacked by Godzilla and my worries went in another direction. What if there was a Godzilla attack? I wouldn’t even have the horrible dubbing to make it funny. But whichever interesting story I chose to attach to their absence, the result was still the same. They couldn’t reach me, and I didn’t have any other number to call.
So while the Erics went to their Manga Museum or whatever those assholes did (I’m not bitter), I basically walked around for 8 hours and had two meals at really shady places for the underground excitement of possibly unclean food. Sannomiya was a great choice for random wandering because of the different sections for every shopper imaginable. First they had the overly expensive “Tokyu Hands” that sold anything and everything while doing a great job at screwing you over for the price. Who pays $6 for 6 paper cups with smiley faces on them? (Look! I used a link to reference the picture … I’m a true blogger now.)
Next they have this one street below the train with a flea market type of setting with shops settled left and right. These stores were mostly selling hats, jeans, t-shirts, and shoes. I spent the most time in the hat store because the jeans were making my face melt and brain hurt. I don’t understand. The people walking in the streets are wearing nice jeans (a little tight, but very fashionable). So where did all of those go? Did they buy all of them, leaving the bizarre designs and mind numbing combinations of metal and thin ties behind for the tourists to browse?
I would have spent time in the shoe store, but they didn’t have my size for any shoe in any store. That’s unfortunate. T-shirts were entertaining to read, but I feel like I can order something funnier and less expensive online. Maybe this part of Japan just isn’t a shopping place. It’s more for people like me who walk around and make observations and conclusions regarding the cultural shock.
I was lucky to see a hat store for every 9 stores I saw along the way. It was a walk back into reality. Nothing fancy, nothing accessorizing. They were just really comfortable and good looking hats. The prices were a bit steep, running from 300 to 600 yen, but it was free to try on :D. The style I was trying followed closely to that of NYC skinhead status. I even saw a Fred Perry and Ben Sherman shirt along the way to remind me of the rest of the outfit. Word life. If you didn’t get it, it wasn’t for you to get.
The other half of the shopping experience was in the Sannomiya Center Street. It was crowded beyond belief, but the clear glass panes on the ceiling transformed the claustrophobia to a sense of relief. For some inexplicable reason, I felt very comfortable. I heard soothing whispers asking me to please take my time and shop here. My sanity and sense of peace may have been distorted from the earlier migraines in the jeans stores, so I’d probably need to revisit for an opinion that wasn’t “under the influence.”
As the title mentions, the arcades were abundant. I saw 7 near the station with basically the same arcades and cheap prices in all of them. Surprisingly, each arcade was equally filled with the 16 to 40 year old males mashing away at buttons. Almost every game was 100 yen and if you were good enough at the side scrolling adventures or head-to-head fighting games, you could stay on that one coin for an hour. All you really have to do is beat your opponent, which is either a computer player (which you have mastered and can beat blindfolded) or another loser nerd playing across from you (which will pose a challenge and lead to riots in arcades).
I saw an intense Melty Blood battle that lead to someone standing up and shouting a slew of unrecognizable sounds across to his opponent. In his tone, he could only have been saying “Stop using that cheap-ass fukin’ move before I go over there and kick your ass!” Of course the player yelling looked 35 and the guy that beat him looked 16. I’m surprised he didn’t flick a cigarette or throw the ash tray to instigate. That didn’t stop me from imagining it, and then seeing all the Japanese players completely stoic. They would probably just ignore the scene and continue playing their games.
All arcade areas are smoke-full zones. The ones that have children robotic arm games have these smoking areas inside where a machine sucks in your smoke. The upper layers are for the hardcore pachinko and slot machine players. It seems like smoking inside is more acceptable than loitering and flicking cigarette butts in the street. In the midst of their addiction, they are still respectable and show courtesy to the public space – how nice.
The creativity in arcade games amazes me. I expected the normal button mashing games and shooters, but card games integrated with arcade games? Really? … Really? People buy their own decks so they can only play in an arcade on that one machine where they have to pay more money to versus someone. They have these cards which keep records of wins and losses or something of that sort, so I think they might be gaining something from it. I’m not really sure of the details. It would have been too embarrassing to ask someone, and I wouldn’t expect an employee helping fix arcade games to be educated enough to hold a conversation about anything. It’s a mystery, but I’m sure someone has written about it online. I will investigate matters in the weekends to come.
Some other really interesting games are the full capsule Gundam fighting game that costs $5 to play. Another interesting one is virtual horseracing with real betting. There are, of course, all of the coordination games like guitar hero, DJ master, this drumming game, and that crazy bubble button hitting game (of which I have a video of this guy with eight hands [not literally of course, but yes… literally]). These Japanese guys are so good, which means they have no life. I’m surprised they don’t compete somewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did if I asked. It’s a hilarious contrast to all of the Japanese female players, who have completely given up on any of those games and instead dress up to take pictures next door. Yes, it’s fun to do once in a while, but I feel like these girls are regulars to the picture taking game. Opinions on these Japanese girls will be revisited throughout my stay here.
I returned to Umeda at night to visit a different Japanese lifestyle. I was basically wiped out from video games, clothes, and window shopping. To my fortune, I ran into an 8 story electronics store called Yodobashi Umeda. Dad, you could stay here all day and come back for a week. There was every cell phone, laptop, camera, wristwatch, associated accessories, and anything electronic in existence. I felt like I had walked into Electronics Heaven. The rest of the night was in good hands.
~See Lemons Wander

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photo by: yasuyo