The Journey to Japan


Under the advice of Kuroppi, I am posting this here in addition to

[Caution: Long post ahead. This has actually become so long I have to break it into separate parts.]
Ever since I was a kid obsessed with video games, I’ve wanted to visit Japan. In the days before internet, my brother would tell me about things he read from his magazine subscriptions like EGM–Games that are only released in Japan or the latest technology. In my mind, for years, there would be a mystical hype about Japan bubbling all the way up to these few days. Would the real thing deliver?
I’ve been living in South Korea as an English teacher in an after-school program. Originally, I wanted to spend my vacation time traveling around Japan with some American friends in the penultimate week of January, but my school basically made me take my vacation during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s. Things don’t always go as we plan them to, but I was more focused on the fact that I’d finally be achieving a lifelong dream.
I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, but my motive seems to have changed from video games to overall culture, finally narrowed down to Super Turbo. With the recent closing of Nakano Royal and even Super Arcade being on the ropes (again), there is no better time than now to pay homage to what is left of the global arcade scene.
Since my work told me at the last minute about my vacation, I had to make arrangements in the same fashion. Luckily, this didn’t affect ticket prices at all, but I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a hotel. I had to search for a long time, but I finally made a reservation to stay in a capsule hotel for four days. Another factor that added to my stress was that my December paycheck hadn’t come in yet (though it should have) and I was running on fumes of only about $300 cash (¥250 after changing currency from KRW to JPY at the airport, yuck) since I could charge the flight and hotel.
Everything worked out, though: New Year’s happened to be a great time to visit Japan and I would heartily recommend it to anyone else in the future. I was just so juiced at the idea of finally being the wandering world warrior and seeing how I stack up against the gods of Super Turbo. I see myself as a rather stoic person. Normal things tend to not excite me very much. But when it comes to Super Turbo, a game I can actually say I’ve given years of my life to along with a number of others, such a deep satisfaction overcomes me and everything else in my life is just child’s play.
I used to write excessively long blog entries detailing everything I could remember about tournaments and events I attended. I’ve been to EVO plenty of times, and to be completely honest, the rush of hype it is expected to cause wears off quite quickly these days. Now that I’ve seen what the ST “holy land” has to offer firsthand, I can make a comparison with the competition back home. I feel it’s personally important for me to document my first time in Japan.
Before I went to Japan, I had no understanding of how their currency was arranged. The biggest shock for me was that their $1 and $5 counterparts (¥100 and ¥500, respectively) are coins. The other coins available are at ¥1 (not as common), ¥5, ¥10, and ¥50. I just wanted to get this explanation out of the way since it helped me better understand how arcade culture has survived in Japan and I hope the reader can piece it together as I recount my tale.
I’ll try to do this as chronologically as I can since that seems to be the easiest way to express my experience with some sort of structure. It was only four short days, but everyone always remembers their first time.

Day 1 – December 29, 2013
I was originally going to bring my laptop bag and my bookbag (mostly clothes) since my actual luggage suitcases are enormous and I don’t have any mid-ranged sized bags. But right before I left, I decided I would truly travel light and just take my bookbag. I never really regretted it since I was able to manage stuffing everything in there (including a new backpack that I bought since the old one has a zipper jam). Ryu only carries one bag, right?
The flight from Busan to Narita is about 100 minutes. Really not bad at all and the round trip ticket only cost me around $200. Sleeping in a box for four days ran me about $137. While I was at the airport, I made sure to buy the 2-day Tokyo Metro rail pass for ¥980 (there is also a 1-day pass for I think ¥580). It was a smart decision since I’ve grown to love exploring cities and I would be hopping around various arcades. I had scheduled my check-in time at the hotel to be 1500 since that’s the default and it sounded reasonable as I landed at 1300. But I got really confused by all the options of getting out of the airport with my measly budget of ¥250 cash.

By the time I figured all of that out and called the hotel to tell them I'd be late (a long, confusing conversation in itself), it was around 1730 when I checked in. The hotel was in Kiba, which was a stop on the Tokyo Metro Tozai (teal) line. I decided the best route was to get to Funabashi, a stop I saw on the railway out of the airport and then transfer over to the Nishi-funabashi Tokyo Metro station, one end of the Tozai line (the closer end to Kiba). Getting lost is part of the fun. When I got to Kiba, I dropped off my stuff in my locker (they give you a locker to go with your capsule) and found an immediate answer to a question that boggled me ever since I booked my room.

My question was: is there a housekeeping service offered at capsule hotels?
The answer was on an English sign in the locker area: if you don’t want your capsule to be cleaned, please pull the curtain down when you leave
So yeah, the “door” to the “room” is basically just a curtain. New experience for me, but I’m just happy I found a warm place to sleep.

The winter weather in Tokyo is very mild compared to Korea. I didn't have to wear long underwear layers beneath my street clothes. Another immediate difference was the lack of swift and ubiquitous internet I'm used to in Korea. Considering these things made me think of how my experience in Japan would have differed if I had not lived in Korea beforehand. The two countries share a lot of similar cultural customs and even their languages are often both classified in the Altaic language family. Initially, I kept wanting to speak Korean since that's usually the foreign language that is floating around in my head (I have terrible command of any language but English—an American stereotype I live up to, but want to change). But since there's a great deal of history and rivalry between Korea and Japan, there is also a lot of enmity. Perhaps it's best I don't get too deep into this subject and carry on. 
Anyway, I wanted to hurry to the Tokyo area since I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to find Versus. I had wanted to get there around 1800~1900 since that's when the casuals start up for the weekly East-West battle. Right as I was walking to the subway station, I felt like I forgot something. I went back to the hotel and asked them for their business card or something with their address in case I got lost and needed to taxi it back. When I went down to the subway, I decided not to use my Tokyo Metro pass yet since I started the day in the Tokyo area so late and it would be a good opportunity to spend some time learning how to use the subway instead of just swiping a magic card everywhere. I took the train to Nishi-nippori and night had already fallen. How was I going to find Versus? I just picked a direction and started walking.

Holy site #1: Versus.
This arcade was the hardest one to find since the sign is so tiny and it’s really tucked away in a back alley. I had asked two pachinko places if they could point me to a gamecenter, but they didn’t know. Finally, I asked some guys working at a smaller gamecenter and one of them pointed me to the alley in between a Yoshinoya and a KFC.
I was only here on Sunday for the big East-West battle (the last one for 2013!).
It’s ¥50 to play a 2/3 set. The first ST “celebrity” I recognized was Pony.

I was considering asking at a small police outpost where I could find a gamecenter since they were so close to the subway station, but by the time I walked back a woman was in there talking with the officer. I kept going in the same direction after I turned around and everytime I heard electronic sound effects, as if from a video game I was fooled by the call of a pachinko hall! I could have sworn I heard Ryu's *hadouuuken* or some of the other CPS2 sfx I know so well. But I was determined. I had gone this far and I was going to find it. Asking around, I relied on a small phrase I crafted using only one semester's worth of Japanese I took five years ago.

“Baasus-no gamecentaa-wa doko desuka?”
[Where is the Versus gamcenter?]
It wasn’t much, but it was enough. I snapped that picture and climbed the narrow stairs up to the third floor and by the time I saw a danisen ranking board propped up on the floor with the character portraits and player names, I was just about on the verge of tears. I really made it. The journey of a lifetime leading all the way to a smokey den of cramped cabinets. There weren’t too many people around on the ST machines yet, so I felt I deserved some dinner.
My journal entry for that day has my first meal in Japan (McDonalds) clocked at 1910. I took my time, savoring every fry and sip. Some lines from after that meal:
Tonight, let’s prove that even gods can bleed. And if it bleeds, we can kill it.
I love traveling alone, lonely as it is at times. I determine my own limits.
Sleeping in a $30 box for a couple nights, but I don’t even give a ffffuuuuuuuu…!

My first meal in Japan. The small text at the bottom gives the definition for “lattice,” ha.

I walked back and there were more people, though it wasn't quite packed yet. I didn't really see any players that I recognized from videos or pictures, so I just watched people warm up since I didn't understand what was going on yet. There was an older gentleman in a hat, coat, and scarf who I decided I would introduce myself to since he seemed like a nice fellow. Again, I fell back on the little Japanese I remembered—the stock introduction.

“Hajimemashite. Nasanieru desu. Doozo yoroshiku.”
{This is the first time we have met. I am Nathaniel. Please be nice to me.}
Additionally, I threw in: “Amerikajin desu. Watashi-no Nihongo-ga heta desu.”
{I am an American. My Japanese is poor.}
My intuition was correct and this man was very welcoming towards me. I didn’t really know much of what he was saying and I think my silence helped to convey that. I watched one of his games and sat down at the cab after he got up. The prompt in the corner said PUSH START instead of INSERT COIN, so I thought maybe the cabs were on freeplay. After I lost and stood up, the man in the hat held up two fingers, implying I should play a 2/3 set. I decided I would ask around later to see how much I owed for the freeplay. I did this for a little while at other machines until I saw that people were indeed putting in coins. The next time I sat down, I wasn’t sure what coin to insert, so I put all the various types of coins I had in my hand and Kawasim pointed to the ¥50 piece. And then it made sense to me that ¥50 pays for two credits (about 25cents/game) and you play a 2/3 set.
I actually identified Kawasim from his roundhouse red Dhalsim and asked him “Kawasim desuka?” as well as giving the stock introduction. I was very lucky to find that he speaks a little English. He asked if I watched the Versus battles on YouTube and helped point out some of the players for me, though, to be honest, I only really knew of Mu, Tsu, and Hanashi (I usually only watch Sim and DJ matches or really big names these days). By this time, the killers started rolling in and I introduced myself to the likes of Pony, VIPER, Nakamura, and Shogatsu. Pony’s reaction to my bottled introduction was rather Japanese (polite) as he reassured me that my Japanese didn’t suck and Shogatsu was also very welcoming. As soon as I said “America” to VIPER he dropped the name riz0ne.
There was a clipboard near the TV/stream station with a list of names and characters and I signed in using my first name in Katakana since I thought it might be difficult for Japanese people to say Fuddulous or Fudd properly. I asked Kawasim how much to enter and he said ¥50. He walked around carrying the collection plate to get more coins. I think the turnout was around 57 players. By this time, I had asked Kawasim if any other Japanese players speak English and I was introduced to Shu. Damdai told me Shu speaks the best English, so I knew I was in a good place. However, Shu was a bit busy helping to organize the event so I tried not to disturb him too much.
The East-West battle started and I was on the 2P side, playing at the tenth slot. Also on my team was the man with the hat who played his fierce blue Guile. The English YouTube re-up of the event has his name as Torisugari, but earlier that evening I had written down the letters “TZW” and pointed to him, asking if it was him (since I couldn’t recall his picture from STR). He waved his hands and shook his head. In Japan, there is definitely more character variety, more characters like Ken and Guile as you may have heard and it was pretty nice to not have to fight Boxer/Claw/O. Sagat every other game. I took off my coat and bag, resting it in the gap between the tip of a row of cabinets as Kawasim instructed. “Don’t forget it.”
A Chun player on 1P was tearing up the 2P team and my turn was coming up soon. I told Shu that I didn’t want to have to fight Chun. He (accurately) predicted that Azelea Guile would defeat the Chun. But then a N. Hawk player beat Aze and suddenly it was my turn. Terrible flashbacks of fighting Papercut and damdai briefly came up, but I just sat down and decided I’d play as clean as I could. After it was done, Shu said that hardly anyone knows who the Hawk player is since he lives far away. All that was left was to sit back, enjoy the show, and root for 2P. It boiled down to heavy-hitters and then Numa appeared for the 2P team and F’ed up everybody. When I saw Numa sneak on to the cab, I got a Willy Wonka vibe from him and I have no idea why. But after the 1P team was eliminated, the exhibition matches ran and all the remaining players fought each other.
After it was over, Shu said to me, “Now you can drink.” This stressed me out a bit since I thought it meant everyone was going out for drinks or something (I’m a super lightweight when it comes to alcohol). But instead, he handed me ¥120—the winning team is awarded some money—and said I could get a drink from the vending machine. I was relieved and walked over to see the selection. Most of the drinks cost ¥120, but I saw Nakamura drinking something called Wilkinson, which costs ¥150 (the equivalent of three 2/3 sets!). I remember thinking that maybe if I drink it, too, then maybe I’ll have cleaner footsies. The drink’s label said Grapefruit, herbs, honey and had a nice, spritzy taste to it. Additionally, the humble Nikaiten (he works at Versus and organizes the events) was going around offering everyone a Japanese rice cake. A New Year treat, maybe?
During the event, I kept looking at my watch to make sure I didn’t overstay since the last train was around midnight or so. I left a little before midnight and ran down to the subway, seeing that I would catch the last train listed. But the last train would only take me to Kabayacho, the transfer station for Chiyoda (green) line. When I tried to get on the Tozai line, subway personnel denied me. I would have to cab it back to Kiba. Good thing I remembered to get that hotel business card. And just so you know, cab rides in the Tokyo area start at ¥710 and this one came out to ¥2000. Hell of an end for a hell of a first day, I guess.
I remember commenting to Shu:
“Man, you guys do this every week?!”
"Every week."
If I could play against Sashishi and Sasori every week for a couple of years, I think I might just learn a thing or two about Super Turbo. A different conversation I had with Shu was about another player—I forget who, maybe Tonegawa or Kawasim—and his age. I definitely felt like the youngest person there (though I’m not sure how young Tsu is), but I’ll touch on this topic again later when I reveal more of my trip.
PS: Don’t whiff anything against Hanashi if he’s within midrange. Otherwise, you’re dead :slight_smile:

Tune in next time for Day 2: Exploration!

Street Fighter V Lounge "We on South Central crack addict status"

Awesome write-up Fudd, I’ve been looking forward to this. I definitely understand wanting to kind of blaze your own trail when visiting Japan for the first time, “getting lost’s part of the fun” etc.

Glad you met Kawasim, who was one of the guys I had told the week before at Versus that that an American by the name of “Faddo-san” might show up. I’m looking forward to Part 2!



Awesome writeup! The dedication that a lot of these guys have to attending the East-West battles week after week is pretty amazing. I heard apparently Numa lives like two hours away from Versus, yet regularly makes the trip. Did you get a chance to talk with VIPER at all (despite the language barrier, he’s very friendly especially towards foreign players who’ve made the trip)? I guess the language barrier might’ve been a slight issue…

I’ll be in Tokyo this April/May, and this writeup has me all fired up now. I’ll be sure to add my own trip log (for the third time) too.

Looking forward to the rest!


Thanks for the writeup Fudd! I look forward to making the trip sometime.


I’ll be honest, I’m not a ST player (I tried to play little back in college during 3S/MvC2 days) but I’m always interested in other players’ arcade stories. I live in Beijing, and am pretty ‘in’ our arcade scene there. It’s a great community we have (like all arcade communities are) and when you brought up the comment:
“Man, you guys do this every week?!” "Every week."
That is pretty much the way we are too (well, some of us, including me, show up even more often, like 3-4 times a week). Unfortunetly, our arcade scene isn’t on the same level in Japan, in the sense we have less diversity (and less games). So our big scenes are Tekken (the one I’m in), SF4, KOF '97, the rhythm crowd (mainly IIDX, Taiko and DDR, I play IIDX), the racing crown (Initial D seems to be the only game though) and the shooter crowd (very small, unfortunetly, but we do have Espgaluda 2 and stuff). Obviously ST doesn’t exist here and the closest is some HF setups (like Korea, I think). I’d love to be able to go to Japan someday (but, like a previous poster mentioned, the language barrier seems daunting).


This was pretty neat to read.

I have always wanted to visit Japan myself but I am limited to my place. I will eventually and be probably more lossed than you.


Fudd, what hagwan are you employed by? I was working at Chungdahm two years ago. I considered going to teach again, but never really was a good teacher lol.

Your experience brought back alot of memories. Did you ever hit up any of the arcades in hanguk? You’re pretty far off in Busan so probably not spending too much time in seoul. I only remembered the one arcade outside of Cheongho and a few random tournies that popped up.


Great read. I’ve been to Japan for work about 12 times the past few years and I really envy the times you’ve had already. I am finally planning on going for vacation and to just game/enjoy next month.

Keep it up!


Godlike post from @Fudd

I actually quit SRK and haven’t been on for months but a friend notified me of this legendary post.

I wish I could have made the ST journey as well and a ton of my old crew who all quit around the late 90s.

@MrWizard @D3v Can we get Fudd’s legendary post on the SRK front page?

I see you are still rocking that godlike DFO avatar as well.

I miss DFO but I’ve been focusing on real life at the moment.

If I were to describe ElderGOD in real life using a single word it would be absolutely godlike.

This has been a rare return from ElderGOD reminding everyone to stay godlike.


I’m actually working at a public school, employed by the TaLK program. I’m down in Jeollanam-do, about 4~5 hours away from Busan and ~6 hours from Seoul. Word had it that laugh said there is a ST scene in Korea, but I’ve found nothing but Tekken and some KOF out here. Then again, I haven’t been to Seoul much and if there are hotspots, I wouldn’t know where to look.

Thanks everyone for your feedback and I’ll be sure to crank out Part 2 as soon as I can.
And special thanks to XSPR for giving Kawasim the heads-up on my arrival.


Great read, brings back to me good memories, excepted I had to give 120 JPY to the other team ! lol ! I may go back there on 2015, I won’t miss these East vs Weast once again ! The BUTCHERS Session !


What language barrier? Insert coin, press start, kick ass (or if you’re like me, get your ass kicked).

Everything else? Google.


Ehh, if you don’t know the language its not as much as fun TBH. I have a few white friends into FGs here but since they don’t speak the language, they don’t have nearly as much fun at the arcade as I do, so they don’t go nearly as often and prefer to do home sessions (lame). The shit talking and going out to eat together after playing games all day, generally being part of a community, is a big part of the fun.

Someone told me the arcade scene in Seoul like totally died a few years ago… all that’s left is Green. Not sure if that’s true or not?


With all the console gaming, sure… Plus they don’t always carry older diehard games (to keep up with the demand and space) I didn’t ever get to session with Korean guys too often due to my schedule so I always went home on the last bus. But I know tourney players still go in a few nights a week to get their fix in addition to sessions at home.


Does the pay scale with distance/closeness to major cities? Did you just want to be in the countryside? I’ve considered making the move a few times.


EPIK operates like that, I believe (last I checked). It’s also a full-time program; I’m only part-time (thus after-school). TaLK only has rural assignments, so I had no choice. Some places are still more rural than others, though.


Great read. reminds me of my trip. (edit was in 2006)

when I went I had just turned 20. I went to SBO the first day, I recall seeing Ricky Ortiz there but it could have been someone else. there was definitely a team from USA playing though for 3rd strike. they lost bad. the things that stood out for me the most was uriens throwing up double aegis reflector setups and people parrying entire super arts like it was nothing. it made me realize evo moment 37 or whatever was not actually a rare occurance in japan.

i played casuals Alpha 2 (there were test stations for SF Collection 2 running) this gave me a false sense of skill and when i went to an actual arcade the following day and lost multiple matches of SF2 I got pretty mad. my brother instructed me that i should not bang on the machine with my hands as i could get kicked out. I tried asking around to see if people played on Xbox online and clearly this was not even remotely a thing in Japan.

at the time, i was into SF but not into it like I am now. would love to be able to revisit all the amazing arcades again and see where i am at.


Great read! I regret not being able to participate in the weekly team battle when I was there a few months ago but I was in Tokyo for business and couldn’t really stay late enough to do it. Plus I don’t know any of the Japanese ST players personally and with my Japanese being nonexistent, I’m sure it wouldn’t nearly be as fun. I’ll do better next time I’m there - planning on going with some friends for fun in a few months and they have some local VF players that they hang with.

I’m not a fan of the Tokyo metro pass because you’re limited to only certain lines. Probably better off getting a Suica card. It works everywhere, you can refill it for whatever money you want to put on, and you can use it outside of the subway system for groceries and whatever else. All cities should have something like this IMO.

For the next time, if you can budget it and want to stay in a slightly better place, you might consider staying at a weekly mansion spot. It’s basically a small apartment. The longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. And you should definitely check out Hey in Akihabara for cheap ST - 10 yen per game and good to great comp most hours of the day.


Day 2 – December 30, 2013

I forgot to mention in that I only won one game when I went to Versus, a casual game against Tomoza (Dic/DJ). Before I left Versus the previous night, I made sure to ask Shu how I could find HEY and Mikado. He drew a map to help explain HEY's location, but his best hints were to follow signs that pointed me towards “Electric Town” and that it's near a SEGA arcade. He reassured me that I would have no problem finding either arcade since Versus is the hardest one to find. I had heard many times before that Akihabara is the world capitol for all types of electronic goods. But I can also aptly sum up Akihabara in one word:


Needless to say, I spent a majority of my time in Japan at Akihabara.

I decided to start using my 2-day rail pass (once  you activate it, you must continue to use it on the consecutive day) since I would be doing a lot of exploring trying to find the other major arcades I planned on seeing. Today would really be my day to see, for the first time, what the Tokyo area had to offer (at least, as much as I could with hardly any command of Japanese). I had actually set my alarm for 11 or so, but it went off at 9:59, I think because the hotel's checkout time is 10AM and they want to get people in and out. I hopped on the metro and transferred from Tozai line to Hibiya (gray) line at Otemachi station and rode up to Akihabara. I really enjoyed not having to futz around with coins for fare (ranging from ¥120 to ¥290 or so) and as I got to read the subway maps more, I slowly made my peace with the previous day's frustrations about public transit. 

I arrived at Akihabara and found some English directing me towards the “Electric” part everyone knows and loves. Shu told me that HEY opens at 10, so I'd be able to walk in as soon as I found it. And I feel it was about here when I felt a major reintroduction to cityscapes. That's not to say Busan didn't have a cityscape, but I guess a reminder of how cities, though they are meant to be designed for convenience and density, are different. Also, seeing a big city for the first time always has that introductory charm to it before you grow accustomed to its quirks. And as a quick aside, traffic flowing on the left side is indeed a bit strange (and counter-intuitive to me) at first, but fairly easy to get used to.

I think just about everything in Akihabara opens at 10, so by the time I got there (by the time I even woke up) everyone was going about their business as usual. Maids trying to get peoples' attention with high, cutesy voices and passing out flyers. Other foreigners taking in the sights of tall buildings packed with media, hobbies, and just about any niche interest you can think of. I saw it all there: video games, trading/collectible cards, models, computers, cameras, cosplay, and nerds. 

So many nerds.
But I had my own quest to walk, so I looked throughout the main, crowded streets for SEGA signs and got closer to them.

Holy site #2: HEY
Shu-san told me this arcade would be easy to find since it’s right next to a SEGA arcade. There were quite a few big SEGA signs around, but I knew to look for the orange HEY sign since I saw a picture similar to this before.
An impressive arcade with several floors dedicated to specific genres. Fighting games are two floors up with the ST cabs right in your face as you step off the escalator.
10JPY for one credit (winner stays, obviously)!
This is one of the best ST stomping grounds around when you’ve got idle time during the week.

I instantly smiled when I saw the orange Hey sign and knew that I'd be spending a lot of time here. And even though my time in Japan was finite, I was fine with being taken in by whimsical wandering. I mean, I was finally here and looking at all these games with my own four eyes. I really let myself be who I am. That's a strange thing to say, but when we're at work or around other people who we don't think would be able to handle our true selves, then we just wear the mask of public acceptance. But I felt like I could act more freely — not just because I was traveling alone — since Japan has different ideas about what is socially strange. All of those nerds indulging in their hobbies is the norm and it was great to join them and see that other people get as hype about manga and/or anime as I do with Super Turbo.

The four 10JPY ST cabs at HEY aren’t exactly side-by-side. You can see the 1/2P signs above the cabs.

I snapped this picture after I already toured all of Hey's floors and looked at all of the popular, new, and obscure games they had. Even the obscure games were in cabinets where the Insert Coin sticker said ¥100. I'm not sure if that accurately reflects the actual price to play, but really? A dollar to play? That's pretty ruthless, but it would definitely make you hone your skills quick and take the game seriously (as well as keep Hey operating). The level of smoke wasn't too bad, nor was it in Versus. In fact, I got a bit of a secondhand high a few times. Or was it just a feeling of slight lightheadedness? In any case, if you look at the picture, the player in the winter hat who is second from the left is “Sako Diamond Lane” or the N. Hawk who defeated me in the Versus East-West battle. I got to play him a bit more, but after he left I never saw him again. The guy in the red sweater on the far right was at Versus, Isaji Cammy. 

First, I observed for a bit to see how things worked. There were a few other people watching and once in a while, they'd jump on, too. It should be noted that when you lose a game, you should stand up and step aside so someone else can play. Even if there's no one around (or it doesn't seem like there is), you should at least stand up and make it obvious that there's an open spot. It's a little weird, but it's Japan's courtesy culture. If no one claims your spot, you can recoin and rejoin. Sometimes there will be other people watching, but no one makes a move to join — my guess is that no one wishes to challenge the champion opponent. I spelunked my pocket to fish out some ¥10 coins.

About a dime per game. Sugoi!

I spent a couple of hours changing out some ¥100 coins into ¥10 coins (the change machine specifically assigned for this purpose is very close). Back in Northern California, the best place to play arcade ST was an arcade in San Mateo named Gamecenter. I think the owner intentionally must have designed it to be like Hey since ST games only cost a dime (on a card system, though) and there was a vending machine for drinks nearby. It was about a 90 minute drive for me (and two bridge tolls about $5 each), but it was always fantastic to play there. Unfortunately, Gamecenter closed down a couple months back, but visiting Japan gave me more memories of playing ST on a dime. And the competition was quite varied, too. Throughout the day, I would see some familiar faces from Versus. I got to play against Isaji Cammy a lot while putting in the time to grind. I picked Dhalsim a lot since I don't get to practice that match often at all and I lost to Mike Creque at EVO last year. I had to learn how to block Cammy's cross-up short the hard way — getting knocked down, stunned by the combo, and then finished off over and over again. I admire the consistency in which Isaji landed it (even into a safe blockstring when I blocked properly), but it was clear to see that he practiced it a lot. And he was always, always moving forward to get in my face and would often react to my cr. Mk xx yoga fire with a super whenever he was within range and had meter. I had actually expected the matchup to be something like having to guess jump-in mixups (would Cammy do strong or roundhouse?). But he walked in or hooligan'd most of the time. I certainly learned a lot. I also played a lot of Dee Jay that day against appropriate characters (not Honda — I need Sim practice there). 

There was one guy who I found to be particularly strange. He stood around and watched for a long time. He was tall, with carefully gelled hair and circular glasses lenses. He carried a sort of smaller duffel bag and stood in such a way that his feet pointed inward a bit (intentional or not, I do not know). I wondered if he would ever sit down to play and which character he might use. When he finally did, it was against a Dictator player that I saw at Versus. The other guy was also tall with glasses who would take tiny, playful steps whenever he walked over to play, jiggling his leg a lot when he did, clearly never hiding his excitement for ST). It was funny to me since these guys seemed like they had really opposite demeanors: one very calm and thoughtful, the other always moving and doing something. The guy with the duffel bag picked fierce Claw and immediately started doing repeated backward jump jab/strong til he was in the corner. My first thought was “Wtf, does this guy even play ST?” and being really confused. Claw won that game and stayed on for a long time. I took a few licks at him with Dee Jay and suddenly this guy's personality became clear to me (or at least, how I decided to perceive him). He played the matchup “caged bird” style and quickly learned when I like to hit buttons, stuffing or trading most of my attacks to keep me in the corner. He was particularly annoying with the timing of his slide and just really annoying overall. It made me think that this guy wants to control the situation at all times (thus studying opponents for a long time). When someone finally did knock him off, I think it was a Boxer, I don't think he got back very often (it was a long streak). And he never elected to play against the Boxer. I never did find out who the Claw was, if he even has an alias.

A vending machine with tasty drinks is never too far away. You can also see the escalator leading up to the third floor and a screen for watching one of the games if there’s too big of a crowd. The TV lagged a bit behind the cabs :slight_smile:

When I had a chance to play against Dhalsim that day, I used Dee Jay. And I recall fighting one Dhalsim (in India) and having a relatively easy time neutral jumping over yoga fires from a little less than full-screen. It was weird — I felt like afro legends or something. It was the joy of playing offline and getting immediate response from the joystick. I think it must have been around 2PM when I decided to grab lunch and explore Akiba more. I bought a new backpack with camouflage design for ¥980, but kept it in its plastic wrapping and folded up until I got back to Korea. I didn't explore too much since I thought it wise to head over to Takadanobaba (luckily, also a station on the Tozai line) and search for Mikado. I wanted to know where it was during my downtime so I'd have no trouble finding it again the next day for the NYE/Shougatsu event. Plus the rail pass would allow me the luxury to go back and forth as I liked.

I hit Takadanobaba and took the same approach as I did with Nishi-nippori: I picked a direction and started walking. I walked for a few blocks and noticed the scenery was really comfy and homely compared to the constant action of Akiba. I only realized on my last day that there's a giant shopping mall and a lot more restaurants in the other direction, but never had to go there since Mikado was actually really close to the station. I walked back towards the station after buying a pack of lemon-lime Stride gum from 7-11 and saw a smaller gamecenter. The first time I passed it, there was no one inside and no one to ask. This time I asked the employee where I could find Mikado and he pointed me down a small road just outside. Was Mikado really that close this whole time?

Holy site #3: Mi-Ka-Do
It’s only two left turns right out of the Tokyo Metro station exit 1. Mikado’s selection of games is somewhat obscure, but nonetheless impressive. On Wednesdays they have freeplay nights starting at 7PM for 500JPY. Mattsun works at this arcade so you can always count on him being there.

Yes, it was. And it was still early in the day, as the sun was out. I had found all my goals within two days using only the help of gamecenter employees. I got a bit emotional — a bit verklempt — when I took that picture, knowing this journey has been *years* in the making. I went inside to have a look at the two floors of this legendary arcade. When you go upstairs to can see this on the right side:

Tougeki accolades. Hmm, getting warmer…

The ST cabs are on the second floor and there wasn't really anyone there. I didn't even see Mattsun. I saw some people playing HSF2: Anniversary Edition and thought to immediately pay my arcade respects. One of them was defeated and I walked around a bit before putting in my ¥50. I played WW Guile and knocked the other guy off only to lose to CPU Ryu a little later. I guess it's only right that Ryu defends his turf, heh. Satisfied, I walked out and hopped back on the Tokyo Metro to get my money's worth out of the rail pass. I looked at the map to see where I could go and which of the familiar names I should visit. I went to Roppongi to have a glance, but I think it was still too early to see people getting wild and partying. However, I studied a subway exit map and found that there is a Philippine embassy in Roppongi. This gave me a good laugh and just seemed to make sense for me. It was as if Japan had officially labeled Filipinos as party animals. 

I think it was around that time I decided to go to Tokyo proper. As I got closer to the subway stop, I noticed the train was getting more crowded and people appeared very rich and nicely dressed. When I got off the subway, I must have picked the wrong exit or something since there weren't too many people around and I seemed to be in a sort of ritzy, business district. There were a lot of high-class shops and very clean streets (saw the street cleaners myself) as the day became night. I did a lot of walking until I came across an area that was a bit more lively, which turned out to be Ginza, a different subway stop I passed on the way.

It was nice to see more of the normal people again, going about their lives in a culture that is still a mystery to me. But I have to admit I missed being around the other freaks so I went back to Akiba and decided it was the place to be. I spent a little too much time wandering aimlessly, though I had an event to train for the next day. I believe that night I ate some delicious Japanese-style katsu curry (after waiting outside in line for a bit) and returned to Hey to play as much as I could before catching the train back to Kiba. Judging from all the children I saw at Kiba, I would say that it's a residential area, so sadly there wasn't much for me to do at night. I even wandered around Kiba at night just to confirm that there was nothing around.  I'm the kind of person that considers midnight to be early. I'm sure if I had been born a different person I could have easily been a businessman or a Yakuza. With all of the hygienic face masks around, I actually wondered at how many Yakuza and JAV idols I might have passed by.  A fun thing to think about, though you can't go wrong with the things you already know. As fun as this day was, the next day would show me what Mikado is like when there is ST going on. 

Tune in next time for Day 3, the final day of 2013 and the NYE/Shougatsu event!


Fudd’s writeups are also available on the STR website, if it’s easier to read there:

Part I
Part II