Tired of hopping from tourist spot to tourist spot and looking for a more regular activity? Japan has lots to offer.
Batting is a baseball simulation: a machine throws you a ball and you try to hit it. You can choose the throwing speed and adjust the height of the throw. The batting center provides helmets for your protection.
Sometimes there’s also a pitching practice.
There is a batting center at the top of Yodobashi (9th floor) in Akihabara.
Another popular spot is the Oslo Batting Center in Kabukicho.
If you fancy a game of darts, Japan won’t dissapoint. Darts in Japan tends to be less analog than in most Western bars - you feed the machine a few ¥100 coins and it automatically keeps track of the score for you.
For added fun you can get a card (e.g. ask for a Dartslive II card) for ¥500 that tracks your high scores permanently. You can insert the card into every machine of the type of card you have.
The best darts place is called Tokyo Darts Stadium in Shibuya.
Another recommendation - especially if you want some more variety - is Bagus. Next to darts they also have pool, some kind of golf simulation, and more.
Pachinko is a sort of gambling thing where you manipulate tiny metal balls in a slot machine using a lever and press buttons for the right combinations. Compare it to a slot machine in a casino. The weird thing is that you can’t actually win money since that is forbidden by Japanese law. If you’re doing well and acquire a lot of “balls” you can trade them for gifts.
However, next to the Pachinko store is usually another business, separate from the pachinko hall that can give you money for your wins.
Gaming halls are plentiful. They are loud and full of young people getting their gaming fix. The arcades are noisy places and it’s allowed to smoke inside so the atmosphere can be a bit overwhelming.
There are different chains: Sega has some venues; another common one is called Taito station. Most of these are spread across multiple floors, where every floor has a different theme.
There are many different types of games: classic arcade style games (racing, fighting), card based games, music based games - the choice is seemingly endless.
If you don’t speak Japanese, you’ll find that half of the games are unplayable because they require a good deal of Japanese language knowledge.
Straightforward games like shooters, fighting or driving games can be played without any knowledge of Japanese.
Some arcades, especially in Akihabara, have retro offerings like Galaga and Tetris.
For me the most interesting part is to find games that haven’t been released in the West. For example, you can play Tekken 7 around the time I’m revising this text (October 2015).
Some of the games in these halls are fairly extensive; in fact some of these seem so elaborate it would take months to master them. There’s horse betting games where you will see 12 people huddled together at their own console controlling their “horses” (it looks a bit like playing Pokémon) and a main screen where the “race is held”.
Another popular one involves playing with physical collectible gaming cards (think Magic: The Gathering or World of Warcraft) against a machine. The cards seem to have a little chip in them so the machine can recognize your deck.
- See: Tokyo - Akihabara