A Guide to Arcade and Game Centers in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

A Guide to Arcade or Game Centers in Japan

By Ferinmi Jun 18, 2019

This post is also available in: Spanish

Arcades or Game Centers in Japan are always filled with some of the most amusing prizes available, happy faces of children and couples, and tons of machines going off. There are many popular Game Centers in Japan including SEGA, TAITO STATION, GAME CITY, ROUND 1, and many more. Game centers are commonly called gesen which is a shorter version of the Japanese-English word ゲームセンター (ge mu sen ta). There are generally smoke-free area, but some also include smoking areas as well. In this article, I would like to introduce those amusing game centers to help you discover the best game centers in Japan. The most well known and oldest game in Japan is Space invaders. It had been launched into the marketplace since 1978 (almost 40 years ago)  by Taito Corporation. Likewise, another popular game which everyone most likely knows is Pac-Man. It was initially released in Japan in May 1980 by Namco Limited, and October 1980 in United State by Midway Games Incorporated. Tori Iwatani is the one who designed this legendary game.

Nowadays, many games have evolved. There are many types of interesting games in game centers in Japan such as exercise games, sports games, and commemoration games. UFO catcher or crane game, Gashapon, Taiko no Tatsujin (or Drum Master), and Purikura machines are among the most popular game and you can often find it so when you visit Japan. You will be able to find game centers around Japan in most areas where high school students congregate and many urban areas in Japan.

100 Yens at Game Center/Arcades in Japan


The price for playing each game in the Game center in Japan starts from 100 yen. This country loves electrical and automatic things. They have a coin exchange vending machine to assist you to exchange the coins. The staffs at the game center will usually not handle money matters relating to this.

How to exchange money at the coin by coin exchange vending machine?

Just follow the following steps:

Step 1: Insert cash or coins
Step 2: Select the type of coins that you want. There have 5 coins of 100 yen coins, 10 coins of 100 yen coins, 5 coins of 100 yen coins and 1 coin of 500 yen coins and 2 coins of 500 yen coins.
Step 3: Collect your coins

However, some game centers do allow you to pay for games using your IC card.


UFO Catcher or Crane Games

The price to play crane games usually starts from around 100 yen. It can be a bit difficult to get the prizes if you only spend a small amount of money. Most of the game centers have a promotion or some special offer for their customers. For example, if you pay 500 yen at once, you will be able to play 6 times in roll instead of the 5 chances you would have gotten with just putting in 100 yen at a time. The prize for crane games are mostly stuffed toys, the figures, the snacks, electronics (Airpods and etc.), the key chains and the gemstone. To be honest, I have never found the 宝石キャッチャー (ho se ki kyat cha = gemstone crane game) since I lived in Tokyo. I knew this kind of crane game from television. So, I researched this and found that it is located in Gyoda City, Saitama Prefecture. The game center’s name is The World of the Game Center Everyday Shop Iyoda shop’.

According to my experience, I am a big fan of Disney. I spent around 1,000 yen trying to get a  Disney key chain. I got the first 2 key chains (Aurora and Jasmin) with just 100 yen. (My brother offered me some help as well.)

I lost another 400 yen for my Alice. After that, I asked the staff to help me get Rapunzel. Unfortunately, the staff in Osaka is not as kind as they are in Tokyo so helping me was a no-go. They repositioned the Rapunzel, but I lost another 500 yen (The price is the same as a beef bowl!) trying to get the doll, and I still couldn’t get it! A truly sad ending to my story. 🙁 Nevertheless, I felt like I worth it because it is Disney! And Disney key chain in Disney store or Disney resort costs around 1,000 yen each! That is the reason why I think that I should play more. Just a heads up, some items are pretty rare and can only be found in the crane game, so the price for those rare items or limited items are usually expensive when you see them on the internet.

In addition, it’s recommended that you check the cost of the prize in the crane game before you play. You should know when to walk away and the possibility of actually getting the prize, the difficulty of each crane game, and the position of the wanted prize. For someone who does not care then just go ahead. If you are not a professional of these crane games, and even if you are there is no guarantee that you can get the prize. However, in the case that you spend more than 1,500 yen or 2,000 yen, I advise you to ask the staffs in game centers for help. The staff will help you by placing the individual prize which you want to get in the crane game at the easiest position for you to get a prize. A piece of advice, use as soft and as polite of a voice as possible when asking help from them! The small prizes in the crane games which close to the entrance ordinary offer high possibility to win. You can find any tip or advice from Youtube such as these guys from this clip.



Japanese photo booths called “Print Club”. It was made by Atlus in 1995. The prices start from 200 yen up to 400 yen for each time you go in. The higher the price, the more activities you can enjoy. However, the more the people, the cheaper it would be for one person because there is no limitation on how many people can be in the Purikura booth. Purikura machines can mostly be found in game centers and amusement park in Japan. It is insanely popular among high school Japanese girls and becoming popular around the world too. You will be able to get small stickers with your photo on it with funny or cute frames, borders, and cartoon characters. Likewise, you will be able to add cute stamps, sparkling effects, and any graffiti to it. Recently, Purikura machines have evolved drastically. Not only can you choose your photo’s frames, but you can write anything (such as name, text, or date) on your photos as well.

The Purikura machine is divided into two parts. The first part is for taking your photos. Inside the booth, the machine will show you how to act by showing prototypes on the screen of different poses and examples. It will countdown and then flash to take the photo. After you finish taking photos, it is finally time to decorate your photos! Which is the second part.  You have to grab a pen to select any stickers shape or front line for writing down your name, text or date. Be careful about the time limit! You will be able to write down or decorate photos within a limited time in some Purikura machines. Furthermore, some machines will make bigger eyes (kinda scary in my opinion), longer legs, skinny body, brighter skin and shiny hair for you. You can select or adjust anything as you want or remove all effects. In the last step of getting photos, you will be able to get the photo by stickers or download them as data into your smartphone. Before taking a picture, the machine will ask you for your e-mail address. Thus, the digital version of your photos will be sent to your e-mail address and easily uploaded onto your social media. Likewise, some Purikura machines can make short VDO for customers.

Gashapon/Capsule Toy


There are many kinds of prizes in Gashapon such as the characters from famous animation or the well-known mascots or miniatures. Some of them are rare items which can be gotten only in Gashapon. Besides, there are some special Gashapon which has 18+ items inside the balls. The price starts from 100 yen, the same as the crane games, but you will definitely get the prizes from this machine after inserting money. You will not know which characters are inside the Gashapon until you insert the coin, get the Gashapon and open it. Gashapon are easily accessible and can be found in airports in Japan. There are a lot of Gashapon at International Airport, Game centers, traveling places, and shopping centers.

My personal experience with Gashapon: When I insert the coin to get a ball inside, I always feel so excited to play. When I did not get what I want, I kept playing it without being conscious until I ran out of coins. I have spent up to 2,000 yen at once playing Gashapon just so I can get what I really want. Except for what I want, I end up giving away the rest to my friends and my relatives as souvenirs when they came to visit me in Japan. Please be careful because it can easily get addicting!

This game completely depends on how lucky you are because the balls inside Gashapon come out at random. The possibility to get rare items is roughly 3-5%. For super rare items, some Gashapon machines may not even have it anymore! A new set of Gachapon has been launched since 2012. It called Fuchico on the cup. There are usually a keychain or small figures or magnet, but this one really got almost everyone’s attention. Fuchico is an office lady who can sit on the edge of the cup. Fuchico is originally designed by Manga artist Katsuki Tanaka. From his interview, he said that he noticed that a lot of people posted boring food picture on social media and he wanted them to look more interesting. Thus, there are a lot of series or set Fuchuko on the cup. I have tried hard to find Fuchico on a cup series, but I have yet to find it.

Taiko no Tatsujin or Drum Master


Taiko no Tatsujin is a rhythm game which produced from NINTENDO company. The price for this game starts from 100 yen. This game is easy to play for everyone. Hold your drum sticks tightly and play! First of all, you have to select the song from the list on the screen and the difficult level start from かんたん
 (kan tan = simple), ふつう (Fu tsu = normal), むずかしい (mu zu ka shi i = hard) and おに (o ni = devil). Oni level is the most difficult level in this game. Normally Oni level will not appear until you hit the right rim of the drum continuously after you select the song. Most of the song which you can choose are Japanese. The majority of the song’ types available on the machines are pop songs, rock and anime songs. The score will be counted when you beat a drum at the same time when the notes pass across drum on the screen.


The simple rule is to hit the face of the drum when you see a red note which is called a don (ドン) and the rim when you see a blue note which is called a Katsu (カッ). The big red note or the big blue note means you have to hit the drum at the right hand and left hand in the same time by hitting on the face drum when the red note appears and hitting the rim when the blue note appears. Likewise, the special red note with trumpet or the note with long line means that you have to continually hit the drum as fast as and as much as you can.

Virtual Reality (VR) Game


Last year, Virtual Reality games were launched into the game market. VR Park Tokyo is one of the amusement VR facilities located in Shibuya, Tokyo, and Fukuoka. There are more than 10 kinds of VR game available to play with prices starting from 3,300 yen for 90 minutes. For more information, please check it form this website.

Another famous place is Joypoilis in Odaiba. It is easy to get VR experience at the indoor amusement park at Tokyo Joypolis. The price starts at 3,000 yen. However, you have to pay an admission ticket fee of 800 yen for adult and 500 yen for children. Interestingly, the newest game just launched in the summer of 2017. They have the Singularity game which up to 6 people can play together with VR goggles and use high technology weapons. The players will be a shooter in a futuristic world.  The assistant robots become killers. The player must get rid of those robots to protect humans. For more information, please check it from this website.


What do you Think of Game Centers/Arcades in Japan?

Now that have more knowledge and have learned more about Game Centers in Japan, would you come to Japan just to play these incredible games or that a no can’t do? Let us know in the comments!


Ferinmi / Thailand