• Japan In Focus

Vintage Arcade Brings Happiness and Joysticks to Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A view of Natsuge Mikado in Hakucho Kaikan from Waseda-dori street

At the end of the Showa period (1926-1989) and in the midst of the bubble economy, businesspeople and students could often be spotted at coffee shops, amusing themselves with tabletop video games.

The sentimental sounds that emanate from those electronic games are back again, echoing inside the walls of Natsuge Mikado in Hakucho Kaikan in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

The arcade specializes in vintage video games from the 1970s and 1980s, with about 60 of the machines standing in formation on the second floor and in the basement of the building.

As I was curiously eyeing each tabletop machine, arcade manager Ryo Oyama, 31, offered me a demonstration on how to play one of the ’80s games.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Manager Ryo Oyama demonstrates how to play one of the tabletop video games, which were commonly seen in the late Showa period at coffee shops, at Natsuge Mikado in Hakucho Kaikan in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

The screen and the controls looked simple, but are designed so that players can easily become absorbed in the game.

In addition to the video games, there are car racing and pinball games. Visitors from generations familiar with these games were very excited to see the lineup.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pinball machines made in the 1980s are located in the basement of the arcade.

“We collect games that used to be seen at hot spring resorts or candy stores in our childhood,” said Yasushi Fukamachi, 49, an employee of Mikado’s operating firm INH.

I played a simple game that features a mountain climber trying to reach the summit in 60 seconds.

I pressed the “forward” and “backward” buttons to maneuver the climber as I had to dodge irritants such as bees, snakes and other creatures. It seemed easy, but time ran out as I was struggling to get my climber to gain ground. Before I knew it, I was totally wrapped up in playing the game.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mountain-climbing games

November marks three years since the arcade opened. It all started when a game center in Tokyo’s Akihabara district was closing down and INH began renting the facility’s Showa-era machines from the owner.

Seventy percent of the machines at Mikado were rented at that time. Although INH had a tough time getting off the ground amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has gradually attracted players in their 40s and 50s who have a sentimental bond with the games. Overseas visitors and families frequent the location.

“I want to keep providing a place that people of all ages can enjoy,” Fukamachi said.

Natsuge Mikado in Hakucho Kaikan

Address: 4-8-8, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

Access: A 1-minute walk from Takadanobaba Station

Hours: 1 p.m.-10 p.m., Monday to Thursday, 1 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Fridays, noon-11:30 p.m. on Saturdays and noon-9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Hours change on and the day before national holidays.