The area around Kawasaki station in Kanagawa prefecture is mostly what one would expect from one of the most urban cities in Japan, filled with malls, cinema complexes, hospitals and office buildings. Only a short walk away, however, is a building that seems completely out of place amongst the pristine cityscape of Kawasaki, a destitute edifice that seems to be from another place and age.
This is Warehouse Kawasaki, one of Japan’s most peculiar video game arcades, modelled after Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City, an ungoverned and overpopulated slum superstructure that to this day influences aesthetics in cyberpunk and Hong Kong settings.
Warehouse Kawasaki opened in 2005 as one of Geo Corporation’s Anata no Warehouse amusement centres, and was renovated in 2009 to its current “Cyber Kowloon Walled City” state with the design handled by Hoshino-Gumi.
On a page previously available on Hoshino-Gumi’s now-defunct website, the company revealed how Warehouse Kawasaki’s layout was planned with miniatures. Props used in the actual design such as garbage and post boxes were real samples imported directly from Hong Kong, while text on signboards was all hand-written.
The result is a gloriously authentic-looking cyberpunk dystopia, synergetic with the complex’s nature as a video game arcade. Though newer games are also available, fittingly old retro cabinets can also be found in the arcade as well.
The building is five stories tall, with video games being found on the second to fourth floors. The second floor is also shared with crane games, while the third is shared with medal games. The fourth floor’s share of video games is relatively small, with the majority dedicated to billiards and darts. The fifth floor of the building is a 24 hour internet cafe. While the first floor is mostly dedicated to a parking garage, the entrance to the building is given particular attention to detail and has features such as sound effects for the door, and background noise- Including people speaking in Cantonese- Constantly playing to give help with visitors’ immersion in Warehouse Kawasaki’s otherwordly atmosphere.
Unfortunately, Warehouse Kawasaki will be closing down on 17th November 2019. Geo has responded to inquiries from fans regarding the closing down of the facility, saying that it is not due to revenue, but due to unspecified issues with the building’s landlord. There are currently no plans to move or reopen the facility elsewhere. A popular venue not just for local gamers but people from other prefectures and even photographers and foreign tourists, Warehouse Kawasaki will be sorely missed.