Game Centers in Japan

Game centers have existed since I was little and has been one of my favorite places to go as a child. My grandmother would save up 100 yen coins in a jar for me so that I can play games there whenever I come visit her in the countryside every summer. As a young child 10 years ago, I was oblivious about the value of money, and uncontrollably kept inserting 100 yen coins to the game machine nonstop. I bet my grandmother spent about 10,000 yen for me at the game centers each time just so that her grand daughter would have fun.

I will introduce three basic popular games that represent the Japanese game centers. These games have existed since I was a child and have evolved rapidly throughout the years.


Purikura is short for “Print Club” and is a photo sticker booth popular among young school girl teens. During my childhood times, purikura was very bland because there were little decoration and artistic enjoyment involved. The only decoration you could do was to chose a photo frame border out of only several designs. Now, you can do much more. 

Most of the purikura machines cost 400 yen for each play. Once you insert the coins, you arrive to the set up screen where you can chose between different shooting options and background layouts. You can chose between different levels of lighting to adjust the amount the machine will make changes on your face. Many young girls chose the recommended option to make their photo look more natural and unprocessed while still hiding their facial blemishes, but others look for extravagant changes that makes them look like Japanese dolls. Furthermore, there are many colorful options for background layouts that you can chose from.

After the setting screen comes the actual shooting and decoration. The current generation of Japanese school girls are very creative about posing with a vast inventory.  For example, recently the “cavity pose” (虫歯ポーズ)became popularized, which is when you hover your cheeks with your hands as if you have a cavity. Furthermore, there are many options for stamps and pens allowing you to stick and draw designs onto your photograph to make it look for dazzling. You can also give yourself a makeover by dying your hair and choosing from different lipstick, mascara, contacts, blushes.

It is popular for people to take purikura on special occasions or on days when they are dressed up. Taking purikura wearing school uniforms, Japanese yukata, and cosplay outfits are especially popular among young teens. Here is mine!


UFO Catcher

The UFO catcher (ユーホーキャッチャー) refers to the claw game that you see at supermarkets, movie theaters and shopping malls in the United States. The UFO catcher has practically the same goal as the claw game: you pick up prizes with a claw that you operate.You get a chance to win various prizes, such as big plush toys, anime or game figurines and snacks.

The UFO machine is not as easy as it looks and can become your money eater if you get too frustrated with it. Some people are especially skilled at this game but sadly I am not one of them. My friend from USA really wanted a sailor moon luna cat plush toy so we decided to give it a try. At first she was committed to only use 500 yen and give up if she did not get it. However after 6 tries for 500 yen, we successfully moved the plush toy closer to its exit. It was a waste of money if we gave up there since we have already moved it so much closer to the exit. We decided to give it several more tries in 100 yen intervals, but after spending 500 more yen (5 more tries) the plush toy seemed to be stuck as it did not move an inch. She decided to give up at that point because we had already spent 1000 yen and did not want more money to go down the drain. But after thinking that we had already spent 1000 yen on that cat, I could not give up. I did some serious negotiating in Japanese with the staff at the arcade and convinced him to relocate the cat to a more movable location. He moved a cat slightly and told me that we would be able to win the cat with a slight push. And so we tried one more time for 100 yen and guess what, we got it!!

So, after a brilliant display of claw machine skills, a total of 1100 yen, and my serious negotiation in Japanese, we won this!!


Taiko no Tatsujin 

Taiko no Tatsujin, translated to Taiko Master, is a drumming game that you see in all the game centers. I have never been to a game center without this game. It is one of my favorite games to play for about 200 each person. The rule of this game is very simple, you follow the rhythm of a piece of music by hitting the drums with two drumming sticks.

You can choose from a variety of songs, ranging from J-pop, anime songs, classical music, etc. As more songs gets released in Japan, the game is frequently updated to also include many of the currently trending songs. Therefore, I strongly believe that the game is never out of date in songs.

There are two sounds that the drums produce. There is the “Don(どん)” sound that you hear when you hit the center of the drums, and is shown on the screen in Red. Also there is the “Kat (カツ)”sound that is produced when you hit the circumference of the drums, shown in Blue. The point of this game is to play the drums as accurately as possible by following the rhythms marked in red and blue circles with the Taiko stick that you control. You may win an extra song if your score surpasses the target.


This is us choosing a song.


Hitting the drums until our arms fall off!!


For optional tour reservation and inquiry, please contact or visit one of our Tourist information center in Tokyo.

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6 thoughts on “Game Centers in Japan

      1. If you plan to study Japanese, then please don’t forget to check out our new blog post “the reason to study Japanese language”.

        It’s a beautiful language;)

        Liked by 1 person

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