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Bandai Namco is Opening Another Massive Arcade in Tokyo’s Famous Red Light District

Bandai Namco announced that it will open another massive arcade complex in the Kabukicho area of Japan’s capital city, Tokyo.

The facility named Namco TOKYO will open at the new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower on Friday, April 14, 2024. The location is quite appropriate as it’s the same where Bandai Namco’s own VR Zone Shinjuku used to be. One of the first VR amusement parks in Tokyo opened in 2017, it was closed in 2019 and then demolished to make room for the massive new tower. 

VR Zone Shinjuku was itself built in the location of the iconic Shinjuku Tokyu Milano, an entertainment facility famous for its bowling alley and movie theater. You could almost say that things have gone full circle, in a way. 

The arcade complex will include 1,431 square meters of entertainment space with arcade machines aplenty, some of which will be exclusive and directly themed after Kabukicho’s nature as an adult entertainment district, like the party game “Let’s Play Together: Human Champagne Tower.” There will also be the inevitable UFO Catchers, a bar and music lounge serving both soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, an official store for the One Piece collectible trading card game, an Ichiban Kuji (instant lottery) store, and a massive Gashapon capsule toy center with 250 vendors including the unique Gashapon Odyssey that comes with a 3D led display and a wheel shaped like a ship’s helm. 

Namco TOKYO will also have an event area that will host plenty of happenings celebrating Bandai Namco’s IPs and more. Music will be provided by the AI DJ DEN-CHAN created by the Bandai Namco Research Institute and other guest characters.

This isn’t the first arcade complex launched recently by the company, as the Namco Akihabara facility opened on March 1 in the popular otaku town of Tokyo, taking over a traditional Sega location. It’s certainly a nice signal for the industry after the bleak years of the pandemic. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Kabukicho, it’s an area of the Shinjuku ward often referred to as Tokyo’s Red Light district. Known for its bright neons, countless bars, love hotels, hostess clubs, and similar establishments, you may have experienced the place on your own TV or PC screen many times if you played the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series. The games’ traditional location of Kamurocho is basically a slightly fictionalized reproduction of Kabukicho. 

Over the past few years, the government of the city has put a lot of effort into cleaning up Kabukicho with stronger business regulation, a much larger police presence, intense redevelopment, and more initiatives aimed at turning the area into a more tourist-friendly “Kabukicho Entertainment City” around the massive Toho Cinema Shinjuku complex.

I certainly still remember the times when you couldn’t take two steps on Sakura-Dori without being stopped by touts trying to drag you into this or that establishment or bar, over and over, and over. While this hasn’t completely disappeared, it’s much more subtle nowadays. 

Theater square in Yakuza 0
Theater Square with Mach Bowl in the background, as it appeared in Yakuza 0

As a matter of fact, the Yakuza series is a great way to see how the placed has changed over the past couple of decades. Having debuted in 2005 and offering updated reproductions of the town every couple of years, you can pretty literally see the redevelopment as it happened in the real world. 

The location of Bandai Namco’s new arcade will be super-familiar to fans of the series, as it’s on the iconic Cine-City Square, known in the games as Theater Square. Many of us have bashed hundreds of polygonal thugs’ heads with bicycles as Kazuma Kiryu in that very place while playing the Yakuza franchise over the years while dropping by the phone booth to save our game.

If you’re a fan, you will certainly remember “Mach Bowl,” which was the series’ version of Shinjuku Tokyu Milano. That’s the exact location where Bandai Namco’s new arcade complex will be. 

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