Penny Arcade

24 01 2009

Occasionally I post about something other than the Animal Collective. I’ve had another busy week in Kyoto as my classes get into full swing and I spend more time with the people I’ve met here. Luckily I still have tons of time compared to the constant class/homework schedule that characterized my last semester at Penn, so I’m still having a lot of fun. This week I had Indian food for about the third time in my life (and quite a bit of it- the nan was the size of my torso), went to Nijo Castle (pictures in my next post), received a lesson in the culinary arts, and visited a Japanese arcade for the first time.

This display may remind you of the Power Rangers. Known in Japan as "sentai", the motif of the group of masked and uniformed heroes has been around for decades now.

This display may remind you of the Power Rangers. Known in Japan as "sentai", the motif of the group of masked and uniformed heroes has been around for decades now.

The cooking lesson I and about thirty other KCJS students and their families (mostly their host mothers) received was impressive in a informational and asthetic way. While it was entirely in Japanese, with the help of another KCJS student and his host mother I succeeded in aiding the creation of takikomi gohan (a rice dish with chicken and vegetables), shrimp and vegetable kakiage (similar to tempura, but  with shrimp and several vegetables fried into a cake-like shape), dashimaki tamago (a sort of sweetened omelet), and konsai miso soup. I regret not taking pictures of the group kitchen area- it was exactly the sort of immaculate, visually dazzling installation you see on cooking shows but never really believe exist in the real world. The entire cooking staff was extremely friendly and helpful, something I greatly appreciated when I was trying and failing to fold the egg into roll form in its pan. Though somehow it came out looking perfect- my dumb luck kicked in.

After the class, I went with several other KCJS’ers to an arcade. Unlike America, where the arcade has essentially gone extinct, and even solo game machines are increasingly hard to find, the videogame arcade is a thriving institution in Japan, with an impressive number lining the streets of Kyoto alone. They’re visited by people of all shapes and sizes, from the Japanese schoolgirl to the well-dressed business man. The Japanese arcade, however, surpasses American ones in not only quantity and clientele, but scale- the one we visited was at least five stories, with traditional videogame cabinets sharing space with pinball machines, crane games (with a huge variety of prizes, from trinkets to massive stuffed animals), betting machines, model horse racing devices (complete with racing horse figurines), and many others.

The floor of the Round One arcade.

The floor of the Round One arcade.

I honestly don’t have as much of an interest in games as I used to, but I played a few light gun games for nostalgia’s sake, including one that foregoed the usual pistol for a full-scale replica of a shotgun, including a used pump to reload it. The entire place is similarly over-the-top and overwhelming, a furor of flashing lights and constant noise. It was all a little strange, but the oddest thing I saw was this:

The glowing pods of the Round One arcade.

The glowing pods of the Round One Arcade.

I have no idea what these pods are. My only evidence to their true, perhaps sinister purpose was witnessing several Japanese enter them and then emerge younger and healthier looking, and one the opposite sex as when he entered. I’m instinctively frightened of glowing pods whose meaning I can not fathom, so I stayed far away.

While I don’t think I’d ever go by myself, the arcade was a fun experience, even if they wouldn’t let me take the plastic shotgun with me.

The Rambo arcade game. Behind the glare is Richard Crenna telling you, I assume, that "It's over Johnny! It's over!" To get the high score, you have to shout at the screen "Nothing is over!" and then broke down sobbing.

The Rambo arcade game. Behind the glare is Richard Crenna telling you, I assume, "It's over Johnny! It's over!" To get the high score, you have to then shout at the screen "Nothing is over!" and then break down sobbing.

The variety of games offered was staggering. If you want to something, but not enough to actually do it in real life, I recommend a Japanese arcade.

The variety of games offered was staggering. If you want to do something, but not enough to actually do it in real life, I recommend a Japanese arcade.

Music I’m Listening to Now: The Handsome Furs, “Talking Hotel Arbat Blues”

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