Introduction

One thing’s for sure: the Japanese love their entertainment. You’ll never run out of things to do because there will always be something to do — even in suburban towns that lie further out from the city areas. You’ll be surprised at what you can find in just a small Japanese neighbourhood.

From the traditional arcades and classic gaming cafes to the unique Japan-origin entertainment like karaoke and pachinko, you’ll find yourself making time to try all of these out rather than having too much time on your hands! There’s no age limit to these entertainments; kids from elementary and high school to salarymen and working mums can be seen in these entertainment areas — and there’s absolutely no shame to it! In fact, it’s more part of the culture!

Karaoke, Duh!

What’s a write-up about Japanese entertainment if you don’t mention karaoke? Maybe in other countries, karaoke isn’t much fun, but in Japan, it’s more like a tradition! Everyone loves karaoke, and it takes the role of everything — entertainment, party activity and even stress reliever.

In some other countries, karaoke is a mic in front of a bar, singing to a group of strangers — to be fair, that can be quite intimidating. In Japan, there are private karaoke rooms where you sing just with your group of friends! Not only that, but there are also food and beverages to go along with your karaoke. Sometimes, these drinks are even cheaper than when you go to a bar! 

Arcades Everywhere

If you think your local arcade is sufficient, wait till you see what Japan arcades are like! Japan has quite a number of gaming companies like SEGA and Taito. Of course, there are classic games like car racing, bike racing, basketball and air hockey, but Japan wouldn’t be Japan if it wasn’t for their uniqueness and originality. There are virtual horse racing games and tap dancing taken to a whole new level! They’re the kind where you have to see it for yourself to believe it!

Too extreme for you? Japan is all-inclusive and has “kawaii” games that cater to the ones who prefer a slower paced arcade game. My personal favourite arcade game is a Mario Kart racing game! Also, let’s not forget the famous claw machine games — you can win anything from soft toys to electronics. I’ve had my fair share of spending hours and hours on the claw machine level of an arcade trying to get a big bunny soft toy out (let’s just say it didn’t end so well).

Here’s a shout: search up “Nihongo Master podcast” on Spotify or Apple Podcast and scroll to Episode 8 to listen to a rundown of Japan’s video game culture — we have a whole section just for SEGA!

The Famous Pachinko

Quite similar to the Western slot machine gaming, pachinko is a type of recreational arcade game that is more frequently used for gambling. While gambling for cash is illegal in Japan, the pachinko games are like a legal loophole for that. The pachinko balls that you win from the games can’t be exchanged directly for money and can’t be removed from the premises, but if you collect a certain amount of pachinko balls, you can exchange it for special price tokens. 

It’s said that these tokens are legally “sold” for cash to a separate vendor. In some cases, these separate vendors are either the pachinko companies themselves or are working with those companies, who would then sell it back to them and thus making a profit.

Pachinko arcade games can come in all sorts — especially the newer ones that are highly customisable. Generally, you insert the pinballs in the game then launch them across the pachinko board, hoping they would land on one of the prize holes or point bars. 

Entertainment Unique to Japan

Image Credit: Greg Gladman

If brightly-lit, music-blaring arcades aren’t your thing, maybe unique Japanese entertainment will be. There are tons of cultural entertainment for your viewing — everything from the sumo (traditional competitive wrestling) and kendo (剣道, Japanese martial arts) competitions to the kabuki (歌舞伎, a type of traditional dance-drama performed in a kabuki theatre) performance.

Viewing these cultural and unique Japanese performances and competitions is not only entertaining, but they also give you an insight into the country’s customs and traditions. It’s like a history or social studies class, only in the form of stage production and sports tournaments. That’s like killing two birds with one stone!

Conclusion

Are you excited to get your game on? If you’re a huge gamer, you would definitely enjoy our Nihongo Master podcast episode, Pixels and Powerups (Ep 8) where we talked about the top 3 video game companies in Japan: Nintendo, Sony and SEGA.

But anyway, if you do find yourself in Japan in the near future, give these interesting Japanese entertainment a try. There’s nothing quite like emerging yourself in the culture when you’re travelling, and this is one of the more creative methods to do so in Japan!