Japan’s most impressive game centre? A recreation of Kowloon Walled City

Japanese game centres and pachinko parlours aren’t especially conservative when it comes to design — not by any stretch of the imagination. But, at the same time, gaudy is the key watchword rather than anything genuinely creative. Such criticism, however, can in no way be directed at Kawasaki’s Warehouse entertainment complex. A design that is intended to replicate sections of Hong Kong’s now demolished Kowloon Walled City, with no expense — or indeed details — spared.

Admittedly, on entering the building it doesn’t quite feel like one has been transported back to an ungovernable settlement that’s home to more than 30,000 people. Yet at the same time, it does feel like a world away from a regular game centre. Or a regular anything to be honest.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

It’s not just about appearances either. Voices can be heard behind doors and windows, plus the lighting hints at the once notorious city’s decidedly seedy side.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

Aspects of which are also represented.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

Covering two floors, the incredibly confined, cluttered nature of the former no-go area is meticulously constructed.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

Complete with businesses and shops.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

Along with suitably beaten and grim looking modern vending machines.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

An attention to detail that also stretches to the toilets.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

But being an arcade, there are actually games to play. And interestingly, some of them date back to a time when Kowloon Walled City was still in existence.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center

And when said gaming is done, it’s out along the dingy alleys and back into modern Japan.

Kawasaki Kowloon Walled City game center


  1. Coli says

    Wow. That is amazing. I would love to check that place out. The toilet itself is worth a trip. Seems like the kanto region has more of these establishments than in my kansai area.

    • says

      Yeah, quite a place, isn’t it? Fairly outlandish buildings aren’t exactly uncommon, but the attention to detail with this one makes it a bit special.

    • says

      Not really. Very quiet. But it was a weekday morning, so that’s fairly understandable. The customers there were a real mixed bunch. Young-ish kids playing games. Older ones gambling. The odd couple too. All sorts really.

  2. Martin says

    That’s really impressive. One feels dirty just looking at the pictures. Nice shots!

    • says

      Yours and most peoples! Hard to imagine any topping this really. Must have cost a fortune to build. Hope it survives.

  3. Marcin says

    I love it, it looks like a set for a cyberpunk movie. The attention to detail is incredible.

    • says

      It is. That’s what struck me more than anything. It could have been absolutely awful, but the effort — and clearly money — they put into it means it’s anything but.

  4. says

    Le Chat Noir, fufufu; what a cool place! Love the use of colour in your photos (as you know, I’m more into B&W myself(, but the colour does really aid to recreate the atmosphere!

    • says

      Yeah, it really is. I knew what to expect and yet it still surprised me.

      Cheers! I agree, a lot would have been lost I think if it had been in black & white.

      If I had to make a choice between one or the other, I’d also opt for black & white. Really do prefer it. That said, I’m on a bit of a colour spree at the moment. Don’t know why…

    • says

      The real Kowloon Walled City must have been wonderful and truly awful at the same time, mustn’t it? A genuinely fascinating place.

      Thanks for including the link. I read that too and meant to include it in the write-up, but then forgot.

      Really thorough, weren’t they? Very impressive.

  5. Squidpuppy says

    Reminds me of the Ramen Museum in Shin Yokohama. Would be cool to have a list of repro-retro environments – visit them all. Was the place busy? Must have cost a fortune to build.

    • says

      That’s true. I’d forgot about that place.

      It wasn’t. Not in the slightest. But it was a weekday morning, so to be expected I suppose.

      But yeah, hopefully it does get busy, cos like you say, they clearly have a lot of money to recoup. An awful lot.

  6. Evan says

    This reminds me of your haikyo photos. Here’s a haiku. Forgive my effrontery. Just thinking out loud.

    Where are the people
    Modern expensive chic ruins
    Japanese culture

    • says

      Haha, no problem. Always nice to have a bit of poetry!

      Does have that feel about it, doesn’t it? What a haikyo something like that would be!

    • says

      Cheers. I’d read that and thought it was interesting, but was loathe to link to it as it’s the Daily Mail…

    • says

      There is, isn’t there? Not surprising though I guess, as it was a pretty unique place. Living there must have been very tough, but visiting absolutely fascinating.

      For a game centre it was quite pleasant. Being the morning and not busy, it wasn’t smokey at all either. Clearly recreating the smell of Kowloon Walled City was one step too far!

  7. AF says

    I remember that during the 80’s and 90’s these video game establishments were full (crowded is the word) of curious and sweaty teenagers all over the places. Those shops didn’t have any air conditioning and the kids started real fights all the time. Also there were all kinds of suspicious or weird looking guys resting against the walls and the atmosphere was filled with smoke and a stink of burning plastic. It was just like these photos. After that, during the 2000’s, some “internet cafes” carried on the legacy left by these chaotic places. I even saw a fire and big flames at the control room (cables burning) of such a place once when i was using the machines. It makes a great site to play classics like “Rival Schools” or “King of Fighters”. It is a picture from an age that won’t come back again. It shows that many exotic features in Asia are changing and disappearing and become moe like the west or hybrid

    As a side note, It seems that the naked woman at Chat Noir looks like one of those “real dolls” used in Japan as toys at sex shops. They aren’t cheap because of the amount of details (proportions, weight, etc…).

    • says

      Yeah, they are fairly sterile places these days. Clean and well looked after, with a surprising mix of customers too.

      I thought the same thing about the woman. It is one of those dolls, isn’t it? They are hugely expensive. It’s, erm, own perfectly created details are somewhat wasted just lying there. Unless of course it’s brought at parties and the like!

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