Japan’s Arcade And Game Centers (From Video Games To Crane Machines)

Japan has contributed to gaming experiences enjoyed throughout the world, from video games to arcade games. If you are looking to indulge in some nostalgic games or have an evening full of entertaining gameplay, you’ll be happy to know that Japan is full of exciting game centers. 

There are many arcades spread throughout Japan, making it easy to plan your next trip around which gaming center or arcade excites you the most. 

Japanese Game Centers

A game center, called a gesen, is the perfect spot to enjoy a variety of different games and activities. You can find hours of fun in these expansive game centers that tend to have multiple floors of games.

The choices for games are so great that anyone can find something they’ll enjoy. 

There are a ton of machine-style games that let you try out your gaming skills, let you do fun trivia or brain-energizing activities, and even fun dancing and music-based games.

You’ll also find games with some popular Japanese themes and characters from popular media and video games, like Pokemon or Hello Kitty

There are classic sports games found in many arcades such as air hockey tables and basketball nets. You can also use tokens to try and win some classic token games with various themes, where you insert your tokens in a machine and watch the mechanism sweep extra tokens to the edge.  Commonly referred to as coin push.

Like many arcades around the world, you can use the tokens you win through these games and other token games to purchase prizes. 

The History Of Japanese Game Centers

A Japanese game center is similar to an arcade in other countries. They have been popular in Japan since the late 1970s but were not the elaborate attractions they are now. They mainly consisted of smaller games similar to amusement park games and classics like Space Invaders. 

While arcades may not be as popular throughout the rest of the world as they once were, the same is not true for Japan. Game centers in Japan get better with time, perfecting their mixture of classic games and the newest crazes. 

Many well-known game companies, such as Konami, have games situated in game centers, and have even had gamers try them out in these game centers before releasing them to the public. 

Crane Games

Crane games are truly special in Japan, given that they offer some really fun prizes that get swapped out occasionally. They tend to bring a lot of locals back to game centers to see what new prizes they can try to win. 

These crane games are similar to those found at typical arcades or carnivals, but they tend to be a little bit easier to win than some games in other locations, where it is next to impossible to ever win a prize.

Prizes can include cute plushies and toys, candies, housewares, and fun trinkets and souvenirs. 

Other Types Of Games At A Game Center

One of the coolest features of a game center that you’ll want to check out is its selection of virtual reality games. This innovative technology offers a uniquely immersive experience when it comes to playing games. 

You also get the opportunity to learn more about what kinds of video games and arcade games are popular in Japan.

There are games that will appeal to anyone with any skill level, from gaming pros to amateurs that just want to have a good time.

There are also games that anyone of any age can enjoy, helping people of all ages embrace their inner child. 

There are also typical arcade games, such as games where you can try driving different types of vehicles, games where you can shoot at a target, and fighting games.

Many games also let you play instruments and sing, which can be a lot of fun to play with a group. 

The UFO Crane Game

The UFO crane game is by far one of the most well-known features of Japanese game centers, and you will find one no matter which game center you visit.

The crane itself is designed to look like a UFO, and you can position and drop to try and win a fun prize. They are a little bit of a challenge, but it’s one worth trying to conquer. 

When To Visit A Game Center

Game centers are pretty popular amongst locals in Japan, especially younger people looking for leisure after a long school day or on the weekends. They tend to get quite busy in the afternoons and evenings, but thankfully they are so big that you can spread around and find a game to play. 

They are also open from the morning to late into the night, and at certain times, teenagers have curfews and must leave so that adults can have free reign of the games.

Most close around midnight at the latest, giving you some time to enjoy some games without kids around. 

In just about any city you visit in Japan unless you’re in a small village, you will most likely find a game center of some type.

Some are small and intimate with a few select games, while others are large with rows and rows of games. 

There are game centers around many train stations, giving you some fun to enjoy before making the train ride back to your hotel. You may even find some game centers nestled into shopping malls or shopping centers throughout Japan. 

Photo Booths

Different types of photo booths, or purikura, can be found spread out throughout game centers. These booths allow you to memorialize your time at the game center with fun backgrounds.

These booths are quite large and are even equipped with a green screen. You can also customize your photos by playing with different backgrounds, and once they are printed, you can add stickers and other elements to your photo. 

The booths also feature interesting effects that you can use in your photos that can either make you look silly or help you edit out a blemish before your close-up.

These are definitely one of the more unique features of game centers that you should try at least once. 

These booths might vary in price, but you’re looking at between 200 and 400 yen to enjoy one of these unique purikuras


There is a well-known area of Tokyo called Akihabara that has ample opportunities to enjoy fun Japanese games.

The streets of Akihabara are full of establishments to play games. These games range from ones that offer a sense of classic nostalgia to new ones featuring some innovative technology. 

Nintendo And SEGA Games

If you are staying in a city with a Nintendo or SEGA arcade, you should add it to your list of attractions to visit.

These game centers are actually owned by these video game giants, and they often offer opportunities to try out some exclusive games that you either won’t find anywhere else or won’t find on the mass market yet. 

How Much Games Typically Cost

The games are mainly coin-operated, but you can get change at multiple spots throughout the center. That way, if you only have Japanese currency, you aren’t out of luck. 

Games range in price depending on how they are operated or how popular they are, but you’re looking at a range between 100 and 500 yen per game.

Most games will be around 100 yen, but there are games with bigger prizes or large props that will be a little bit more. 

Membership Cards

If you’re a frequent visitor of Japan or hope to become one, you might look into purchasing a membership card to a game center.

If your trip is especially long and you love playing games, a membership card might be worth checking out for you as well. 

These cards keep track of your game activity, so you always know how you’ve progressed in a game when you go back to use it next time.

If you win a bonus in a game, your membership card would also save that as well so you don’t lose it once you earn it. 

Largest Game Center In Japan Joypolis In Tokyo Dome City

One thing to note before you choose a membership card, as you can find different types, is to see which games they work for. They won’t work for every single game in a large game center, so it may not be worth it to you. You can purchase these cards within the game center.

Tour Of Arcade Centers In Akihabara

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.