Don’t worry my fellow weeaboo otaku-fans. I made my annual trip to check up on Akihabara on my latest trip to the Tokyo Game Show. Maid cafes, capsule machines, crane games, arcades, cosplay, and toys. I saw it all once again. Akihabara is as safe and secure as it always is, and I prepared a nice gallery of my latest finds for you above.
This time, though, I focused on a brand new objective when heading to this nerdy paradise, and that is to down myself a bowl of delicious Japanese curry for dinner.
If you haven’t read it yet, I provided a write up on CoCo Ichibanya Curry House, home of Japan’s best nerd fuel for the country’s largest chain of curry restaurants. That place is the best and easily the place to seek out if you need a belly fully of spicy liquid meat thanks to its frequent availability. However, today’s trip to Akihabara was to give the legendary GoGoGorilla Curry Shop a try!
Now, I’ve seen this place every single time I’ve gone to Akihabara, but I’ve never been in it until now. I’ve always had a strange sentimentality towards it, though, knowing that it is a famous place. The best way I can describe these feelings is to provide an example of going to grandma’s house. On your drive there, you’ll pass landmarks and icons that start to fire up the nostalgia in your brain, realizing that soon you’ll be with the person who loves you and spoils you more than anybody on Earth.
Grandma’s house! I’m almost there!
That’s how I strangely feel about GoGoGorilla’s Curry. When I see it, I know I am safe. I know I am just feet from Akihabara and am about to be welcomed into my own nerdy culture. It’s like a ritual seeing that gorilla pop up as you turn the corner, and all the memories of video games, maid girls, and your nerdiest journies come rushing back knowing you are this close.
Strangely, I had never eaten there, so I took the plunge this time. I didn’t partake in the 2500 milligram curry challenge, but I did get a “First Class” curry bowl with a nice piece of fried pork “ros katsu” on the top. Along with a beer and a side of cabbage, as you can clearly see, it proved to be too much for even me. I’ve never been so ashamed, but I was unable to finish the delicious bowl of curry.
It’s because of places like this that I always pack on a few pounds whenever I got to Tokyo. I leave my household cooking behind, hit the fast food, and come back to “suggestions” that my stomach has bulged a bit since my departure. Oh dear…
Smaller chains like this are always better than the mainstream ones, but I think I still prefer CoCo Ichiban. However, whenever I’m in Akihabara, I think I’ll make this little ritual a mainstay of my Tokyo travels.
And while it wasn’t in Akihabara, I finally got to tour a genuine Japanese retro arcade. I had met up with one of my oldest friends in Japan who resides in Tokyo, and he took me out for a bit of a post-convention celebration. While walking between destinations somewhere near Shinjuku, I can’t remember exactly where, I peered into a building after a phone call and saw a genuine Star Wars pinball machine from way back when.
I had to check out inside.
And to my surprise, I walked into my paradise, sans all the smoking. Retro arcades! Capcom, Konami, SEGA, Namco, all the best! Rows and rows of classic video game arcades, all from the golden age of development. On the top floor was where all the hardcore fighting game enthusiasts obviously hung out. Every single iteration of Street Fighter was available, every SoulCalibur, Tekken, Guilty Gear, and Virtua Fighter ever made could be played for just 100 yen, and the arcade even held a number of retro Sunsoft and other insanely obscure titles I couldn’t pull from the top of my head.
Fighting games in the arcade are fun, but they aren’t really my specialty. My friend treated me to 1,000 yen ($10) for a few games of my choice, and my first trip was to the SHMUP corner where I dropped money on an original Gradius machine, and I promptly got whooped by the volcanoes just before the first boss fight. I really wanted to play a few rounds of Salamander, that’s Life Force to you North American NES nerds out there, but another gentleman was hogging the machine and clearly in the zone. I had no chance of getting by him.
My buddy dropped in a few rounds of Final Fight, and that was a lot of fun to watch while we discussed the political affiliation of Mayor Mike Haggar and the power of his rockin’ Freddie Mercury mustache. Meanwhile, I jumped into a genuine Power Drift arcade with the steering wheel and all. Strangely enough, I had just reviewed the game in the SEGA 3D Classics Collection, and the actual arcade machine provided far more thrills than the Nintendo 3DS possibly could. Not a knock on the Nintendo 3DS in any way, just the obvious nature of the game, sitting in the seat and driving with gas-pedals.
And speaking of genuine arcades that worked, I closed out my night with a go at Space Harrier, another game I’ve only been able to enjoy through emulation and 3D classics on the Nintendo 3DS. This third-person shooter controls from a cockpit that moves with the character on the screen, and pulling that lever feels far more real than any emulator could possibly provide. Sadly, I got blown up within 2 minutes of starting, but my friend said he had never seen me happier. On his turn, he got further than me, and since he is not nearly as big of a gaming enthusiast as myself, he was happy to point out that he at least made it to the first dragon boss..
After the rush of huge, modern games at Tokyo Game Show 2016, which I pointed out wasn’t as exciting as previous years, this little random discovery somewhere in the heart of Tokyo I’ll never find again reminded why I fell in love games as a three year old kid in the first place. This is what it’s all about, and no matter how far console gaming might stray from my tastes, there is still so much to discover from the golden days of arcade, 8-bit, and 16-bit gaming.