Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hang out in a Tokyo video-game arcade in the late 70s?

Originally published at: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hang out in a Tokyo video-game arcade in the late 70s? | Boing Boing


I like the wallpaper featuring the classic seventies version of the rainbow (red orange, gold and royal purple). Modern scientists now believe there may be as many as six colors in the rainbow, and have even hypothesised something called “not earth tones”; but I feel like we have lost something all the same.


The poor girlfriends looking on in anguish.


60-70’s pinball arcades on the Jersey Shore. If you we’re talented enough a dime to 25 cent investment could be turned into a night of entertainment with wins & free balls on any given pinball machine.


In the late 70s I would walk to a local arcade with pinball and the latest video games. I got pretty good at pinball using change I “borrowed” from my mom’s purse. I would rack up free games and then sell them at a discount.

I also own a Pachinko machine that came right out of a Pachinko parlor in Japan. My dad got it when we were kids in the mid 70s. It’s been in my attic for 30 years. It’s in perfect condition. I should get it down and play it.


Actually I don’t think so - at 3:00 into the video, you can clearly see one of the Women playing. It looks like they are taking turns, in fact.


Yes, yes… women never play video games, etc, etc, outmoded and inaccurate gender stereotype, blah, blah, blah…

Chelsea Peretti Eye Roll GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine


Very similar to the arcades in the US where I hung out in the 70s-80s, but there is one notable difference. Stand-up cabinets were the standard in the US. Table-top games were fairly rare, in my experience.

The most popular games always drew a crowd of spectators as well. Probably due to both the stand-up cabinets being easier to see, and the hesitancy of small arcade operators to invest in more than one or two machines of the same game. This also led to people slapping a quarter/token up against the glass of the machine to call the next game. As a teen I found that very obnoxious, and took great pleasure in playing long enough to make someone pick up their quarter and walk away.


Neat! It’s always interesting to see footage from a past that looks both vaguely familiar and yet clearly a different era. It looks like this footage was shot in and around Kabukicho; it must have been a bit more family oriented in those days.

Classic arcades in Japan have been hit hard by the pandemic — and they tend to be more retro 1990s than 1970s — but there are still some in Akiba.


This never made sense to me. Are people supposed to recognize which quarter is which if more than one person is waiting to play?

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I remember placing quarters and having quarters placed on my table, sometimes there were a few, never had trouble keeping track. Happened with pool tables as well.


As a kid in those early eighties arcades, one thing I don’t have nostalgia for was all the face high cigarettes. Lotsa cheek burns.

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I wonder if this was shot on one of the first portable U-Matic cameras? The picture is so clean, the frame rate could be interpolated, but it just doesn’t look like 16mm. Nothing in the description on any AI/restoration involved. I appreciate the content, but the quality of the footage amazes me.
PS seeing the camera persons pulling the rack focus on SPACE INVADERS was my personal highlight. Started out with ENG camera myself.
Thanks for sharing this!


I think you’re on the money as this being shot on U-matic… and thanks for the opportunity to do a bit of a deep dive on the format which I used in the late 80’s!

The thing that stood out for me was the great colour saturation which would be in part the use of PAL and not NTSC in Japan (the industry joke in Aus was that NTSC stood for Never Twice the Same Colour!).

The sync audio and the fact that this is 18min duration, with embedded visual timecode points to this at least being a U-matic dub as part of the broadcast editing process. This would have been a nightmare of film processing and audio re-syncing if shot on 16mm.

Also of interest is that there is no rolling bands on the game video displays that suggest that this was shot at 25fps PAL and not 30fps NTSC.

Another interesting tech history revelation in the Wikipedia article posted below is that U-matic was used as the first PCM capture device for digital audio and it’s sync rate was 48Mz which is 1/10th of 48Khz today’s standard for digital video audio… not 44.1Khz as used by CD audio.


It was a good system. During the brief arcade renaissance of the ‘90s powered by fighting games, it was not uncommon to have 5 or 6 “quarters up” during a game. It was honour system, basically. Everyone kept track of which was theirs and took it down when their turn came.


Hahahaha… recalling my Sears bedsheets with the earth-tone rainbows.

Changing topic slightly, I can smell the ashtrays in that arcade. Ugh. That was the one thing I hated about Japan - the pervasive smoking.

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Decades later than this, in '97 the early 2000s, I found four six-story arcades in downtown Kyoto. This floor was the pinball games, this floor was the claw machines, this floor was the purikara (“print club” = photo booth) machines… I have a list somewhere of the amazing input devices I saw that day, but off the top of my head I remember the following:

  • fire hoses that you’d point at the screen, with water appearing on-screen in a firefighting game
  • several different kinds of DDR-like drumming games: conga, taiko, even a drum kit
  • Typing of the Dead, whose most remarkable bit was the on-screen ad showing teenagers fighting zombies by typing at them
  • a bus-driving game where AFAICT (not speaking Japanese) you were scored by driving safely. What fun…?
  • a dog-walking game, where you walked on a treadmill and pulled a leash, trying to keep your goddamn dog from behaving antisocially
  • a county fair comedy duo game. On screen you see a couple guys on stage razzing each other in front of a standing audience. The input device is a plush human mannequin you stand next to, a copy of one of the guys on screen. Whenever that guy talks smack about you, you’re supposed to bash him in the face, or smack him upside the head, with your avatar mimicking on-screen your chosen beatdown.

You usually found table top cabinets in pizza parlors and in the front of drug stores.


That would have probably been this:

aka Tsukkomi Yousei Gips Nice Tsukkomi. It was a manzai comedy simulator, a type of slapstick comedy popularized in Osaka. Presumably you take the role of the “straight man” while the controller represents the “funny man”

Here’s a more modern video game take on the genre with English subs:

Not sure about conga, but the others were likely Taiko no Tatsujin and Drummania respectively.


26 replies, and I’m the first to call out his “Best Strategy” of taking out an entire column?! :slight_smile: 'Cmon… the highest threat is running out of time (once the enemies are in your face you can’t shoot them). Furthermore, you can’t fire another bullet until the last one you fired intersects (worst-case scenario is you miss everything and have to wait foreeever).

Given it’s easier to track/hit closer targets, time-to-fire reduction in hitting closer targets, and reduction of oncoming threat: The “Best Strategy” IMHO is to go closest-row first!

And THIS is the money content I come to BBS for; Thanks for posting all of this! :heart:

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