16th October 2013
Waking up in Tokyo during a fully blown typhoon is kind of fun and scary in equal measure. This is the start of my revisit to Japan, and it is day two. Day one was taken up with finding and checking into the Candelo Hotel in Ueno, and catching up on some jet lag whilst waiting out the typhoon rain. I did not bring a raincoat – dam.
I have decided day two can not be rained off – so here I am, in Akihabara, it is blowing a gale and I have already seen a Japanese salary man blown-off his feet whilst trying to cross the station square. I retreat back to the station to wait this wind out. Now I am on the third floor in a Starbucks within the Akihabara station complex.
The typhoon wind is dying down a bit but the damage is clear to see, bikes, tree debris and umbrellas strewn everywhere. What a mess. Still the Pachinko hall – Big Apple, is in full swing.
It is 9.30 am and this five-storey palace of Pachinko is open for business, people are already stationed at their slot machines, gambling.
This place is a freak-show, it is so loud my ears are hurting, the air is acrid with smoker’s air and the space has a stale smell – like an English pub used to smell like in the morning, before smoking was banned, when the lights were on. It is the whiff of the night before.
I really don’t get this place, is it addictive? bright lights, noise, flashes and hand / eye movements, which are very automated – winning more tokens, which go back in to slots.
From what I can see it is all about hand-eye co-ordination, when the video screen shows numbers you have to hit the corresponding numbered buttons, 1-2-3, 2-3-1, 3-2-1 etc.
There are five floors of these things, each floor has a different slot / game experience. The volume is immersive and people sit at chairs that are bolted to the floor, they have no idea I am here, I could walk through here naked and they wouldn’t notice a thing.
I can’t think of any European equivalent, slot-machines come close, but they do not compete on volume, or shear numbers in one space. I have been to Vegas and even that doesn’t come close.
The air is so smoky and acrid my eyes water and because of the noise my ears occasionally have a shooting pain, I decide to leave; ahhh...breath, strangely the Tokyo street is calm and quiet, even in Akihabara – electric city. May be this is what it is all about – a stimulus overload so that the streets of Tokyo become calm and tolerable.
Architect, traveler and top 25 all time star architect of Grand Designs... follow me for architecture, design and globalism. Based London • Hereford