Every few weeks my kids bug me to take them to the “ge-sen,” or game center, and I give in and take them. Japanese video game arcades are fun, with lots of different things to do as long as you don’t mind blowing $20 in a half an hour or so. In addition to the standard fighting, scrolling and sports-related games (which are always $1, and often $2, per play), there are usually some large-scale games that let you bang on Japanese taiko drums, play air guitar and even take a virtual dog for a walk. Lots of games are based on anime, like a Lupin the 3rd game in which you have to shoot fast to keep Inspector Zenigata from catching you, and a great driving game based on races from Initial D. My son and I have been hooked on a Gundam game in which you fight battles from the first two series, choosing any mobile suit you want. Gambling is a popular pasttime with adults, and many games give customers the thrill of betting on little mechanical horses that run around a track or let them put valueless tokens into slot machines. Japanese arcades are also well stocked with “UFO Catcher” machines, a.k.a. crane games with prizes you can grab, as well as Puri-kura, the “print club” machines that take your picture and print it on a sheet of stickers for you. It’s common to find off-color games in arcades, too, like 1-on-1 video mahjong against a pretty anime girl.
As the number of children in Japan decreases, more and more people are turning to pets for companionship, especially dogs. Japan has been in the middle of a boom in “brand dogs” for the past few years, with famous breeds like Welsh Corgi, Shiba Inu and Miniature Dachshund commanding $1000 and up in pet stores. When high-interest finance company Aiful made a TV commercial about a man who needed to borrow money so we could buy a little dog tuxedo for his Chihuahua to attend his daughter’s wedding, there was a huge explosion in Chihuahuas in Japan, and now you see them everywhere. The Groomy plush pets that J-List sells are a direct result of the popularity of dogs in Japan.
J-List brings you a little piece of Japan every month in the form of our revolving magazine subscriptions for popular anime, fashion, toy beautiful idol and other magazines from Japan. We’re adding to our already excellent selection of subscription items, including SHOXX, a beautiful magazine devoted to Japan’s “visual rock” bands with lots of great photography in every issue; Tokyo Journal, an avante-garde English magazine of life and culture in Tokyo; and Kateigaho (“Home Art Report”), a fabulous English monthly that captures the world of traditional art and culture for non-Japanese readers. When you subscribe to these magazines, we’ll send you the current issue as it comes in, until you tell us to stop sending them to you.