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Tokyo's underground game bars

Shinjuku GAmE BAR


Official Website
Street Address: Kabuki-Cho 1-2-7 Taikan Plaza Seiza-Kan 5F

How much will it cost?
About  ¥4714.5 - ¥14143.5
About $50 - $150
About £30 - £90

Across the street from Castage is a building that hosts a myriad of naughty nighttime entertainment venues. There are hostess clubs, where business men pay ridiculous fees to chat and drink with young ladies. You’ll also find lots of so-called “massage parlors.” But amidst these dens of sin, you’ll also find the plainly named Shinjuku Game Bar on the fifth floor.  


Above: Shinjuku Game Bar provides Saturn, SNES, Wii and PS2 games for its customers to play 

Shinjuku Game Bar is huge, and sports five cushy couches surrounding a console equipped with a projector. Opening around the same time as A-Button, Shinjuku Game Bar feels like it was made to be a typical Kabuki-Cho watering hole. For a reference point, think of the few quiet bars portrayed in Sega’s Yakuza for the PS2.

According to Rikapo, one of the two hostesses who work at Shinjuku Game Bar, the place usually starts to pick up around eleven at night, when Japanese business men start filtering out of their official postwork get togethers and continue drinking at their less formal “2nd parties,” as they are called in Japanese.

When asked whether any game developers come to play and relax, Mr. Haratake, the owner, looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “No, just normal salary men, usually in their thirties,” he said. For Haratake, there’s nothing unusual about Shinjuku Game Bar. It’s just a typical Kabuki-Cho joint... that just happens to have two massive cabinets filled with hundreds of games to play.


Above: The bar looks inviting and is loaded up with several clean ash trays 


Castage: Actor & Game Bar


Street Address: Kabuki-Cho 1-4-12 Nakayoshi Building 2.5 F

How much will it cost?
About ¥1885 - ¥4714.5
About $20 - $50
About £12 - £30

Akihabara may be where the games are, but the remaining bars on this pilgrimage lie in Shinjuku, home to the heart of Tokyo’s business world as well as its “entertainment” district, Kabuki-Cho. It’s in Kabuki-Cho that you’ll find Castage: Actor & Game Bar. The establishment is less than a year old, and is distinguished from others in that it’s not a game bar seven days a week. Instead, each of Castage’s bartenders have regular nights and are encouraged to create an atmosphere suitable that caters to their patrons’ tastes. At one point, the bar became the hangout of a small group of animators, so for a few days a week, Castage transforms into The Board of Animators. On Tuesdays it becomes Game Bar Super Robot Spirts, and on Saturdays it becomes Gundam Bar Haro. But no matter what day you visit, there are always games to play.

The bar, which opened in April of 2008, is sparsely decorated. No tacky posters or figurines here. The actual games available at Castage are limited to whatever that night’s bartender brings with him. When we last passed through, it was Gundam night – and a Famicom, Super Famicom, and PS2 were available to play.

The bartender, a parttime voice actor and model, chatted us up, while the Saturday night regulars huddled around a netbook, laughing at YouTube videos. He explained that most of Castage’s  clientele were average people and worked outside of the game’s industry. If A-Button is a great place to chat about the newest games with industry insiders, Castage should be your destination for a serving of nostalgia with your Gundam-inspired cocktails.


8-Bit Cafe

Official Website
Street Address: Shinjuku 3-8-9 Shinjuku Q Building 5F

How much will it cost?
About ¥2820 - ¥7051
About $30 - $75
About £18 - £45

Located away from the sleaze of Kabuki-Cho, past the gauntlet of high-end department stores that draw shoppers to Shinjuku, is the 8-Bit Cafe. The small plaque for this fifth floor bar makes it is easy to miss. But once you do find it and make your way upstairs, a stylish and spacious bar packed with gaming paraphernalia of every sort awaits. 


Above: A small plaque indicating the entrance to 8-Bit Cafe. Don't blink or you'll miss it 

Chiptunes (sometimes spun by a live DJ) and videogame music provide a casual atmosphere, while alcohol, a Famicom, and Super Famicom offer more hands-on entertainment. Early in the evenings, 8-Bit is a popular dating spot. Couples start arriving as soon as the bar opens at seven, and apparently no date at 8-Bit is complete without at least thirty minutes of Super Mario Kart. Later in the evening, the couples disappear and are slowly replaced by developers and hardcore fans (about a 50/50 mix), who start piling in for serious all night drinking.


Above: The 8-Bit Cafe’s “Dr. Mario.” Be careful. It’s a lot stronger than it looks! 

The cafe is packed with people until five in the morning, and the excellent Indian curry place across the street is good for settling down a stomach that’s been subjected to too many Dr. Marios during the evening. Once the booze starts pouring and games start rolling, you won’t want to leave. If you plan to embark on this pilgrimage, make sure you set aside an entire night (and a good part of the next morning) to enjoying the 8-Bit Cafe.


Above: The interior of 8-Bit Cafe 


Above: The bar is littered with figurines 


Above: The 8-Bit Cafe’s Famicom and Super Famicom. Show your date a good time with a few rounds of Mario Kart before buying her a drink 


Above: The owners and operators of 8-Bit Cafe, Nao (left) and Kojo (right) 

47 comments

  • dakotak51 - October 3, 2009 9:20 a.m.

    they have a place out here in wellington, new zealand like that ones called "gamesland" and the other is called old boy"
  • deadeye521 - August 17, 2009 12:55 a.m.

    looks awesome im going to visit a friend next month ill be sure to visit these places
  • adadadad - August 14, 2009 4:07 p.m.

    SECOND! NICE ARTICLE. MAY HTINK JAPAN ALL WRONG. THEY LIK PS-CRAP OVER XBOX! SILLYS. AX
  • Major_Wuss - August 13, 2009 7:46 p.m.

    Well, now I know I'll have places to check out when I move there.
  • ShadowMantis - August 13, 2009 12:39 p.m.

    OMG!! I HAVE TO GO TO TOKYO!! Who wants to come with me.While we're over there the only thing I'm gonna eat is NOODLES!
  • coolbeans - August 12, 2009 2:35 a.m.

    us Americans are left with only two option; 1: build some sweet bars like these here or, 2: all move to japan
  • gatornation1254 - August 11, 2009 7:17 p.m.

    Man I agree with you guys why can't here be places like that in America. I wud love to go and check out some rare games.
  • adadadad - August 11, 2009 7:05 p.m.

    FIRST! GOOD ARTICLE. MAY THINK JAPAN IS NOT CORRRECT AS THEY GET PS-CRAP OVER GREET AND SOPECIEL XBOX 360. /FAIL FOR THEM. MAY CRY.
  • MitsuharuSan - August 11, 2009 2:55 p.m.

    PS.: For those wondering... Tokyo is evolving to a level in wich you can already live well just by speaking english. I don't know if that's good or not (for Japan, I mean), but that's pretty much it. I wish the "people of nowadays" there would care more for the beautiful japanese culture of yesterday, but at least I think that will make the world closer somehow (and here's hoping this will mean less japanese berating "gaijins").
  • MitsuharuSan - August 11, 2009 2:50 p.m.

    Go to hell, Cwf2008. I lost members of my family because of your f'n bomb. If you don't have a heart, at least shut up. Anyway, domo arigatou gozaimasu for this article, GamesRadar!
  • dweller - August 11, 2009 2:35 p.m.

    I have to admit I'll probably drink more if there was gaming bars around here. reCaptcha: spittle Department
  • dante1924 - August 11, 2009 2:34 p.m.

    Sorry for a second post, but to mizzy: Are you on pot? Because that didn't really make sense.
  • dante1924 - August 11, 2009 2:02 p.m.

    Why do the bars get smaller and smaller as the article progresses? Anyway, I will go to A button one day, even though I don't know japanese! And I'll also find Qunai bros. one day, even though it will take forever.
  • 88Meters - August 11, 2009 12:33 p.m.

    Fuck you guys, I wanted atleast a clue for Qunai.
  • FETALJUICE - August 11, 2009 4:25 a.m.

    Shit, now I have a sudden urge to go visit Japan...
  • Red - August 11, 2009 2:22 a.m.

    I love Japan.
  • mertor3190 - August 11, 2009 1:50 a.m.

    Man i always wanted to go to Tokyo. But now I HAVE to go.
  • mig000 - August 11, 2009 1:02 a.m.

    Actually thats a great idea. I should start a bussiness like that with a few friends if we could get the money.
  • lovinmyps3 - August 11, 2009 12:45 a.m.

    SWEET!! I'm already learning Japanese so I can move there in a couple years!
  • Hobojedi - August 10, 2009 11:43 p.m.

    But.. I can't speak Japanese..

Showing 1-20 of 47 comments

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