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Game Hunting

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in northeastern Japan... were there game shops? Was there a version of Akihabara in each major city? Would I find nothing and be incredibly bored? Well, fortunately, there are game shops where I can find what I loved -- old games -- and enjoy what I had been dreaming about for years.

Here is the great Tohoku Hero! It's the shop that saved me!
You see, after two weeks of living in Kitakami, and exploring various areas, I still hadn't found a Real Japanese Game Shop. I was beginning to lose faith.

Then, one day, on my way to work I was ambling randomly on some streets full of snack bars and restaurants, and I passed this store! Inside were dozens of PC-Engine, Famicom, and Super Famicom games, all at low prices! (¥200-¥2000) So, I spent the next couple of days happily, returning to the shop, buying up some cheap PCE games that I'd never even heard of, but I could buy scads of them because they were so cheap!

I later discovered other game shops that had lower prices, but this store is still dear to my heart. Their selection, while less than shops in Akihabara or big cities, impressed me at the time, and I still go back to find good deals. From here, I've gotten game systems at a great price: a Saturn, FDS (broken), PC-Engine SCD-ROM, SFC, each for ¥200.

Oh! I've caught the shopkeeper in this pic. In the case are GB and GBA games; on the wall there are MSX and Mega Drive games. And on top of the cases are cheap PS and PS2 systems. Usually if a console is old, broken, or missing something, the owner will sell it at a premium. Or give it away, which is how I got a working, cableless SuperGrafx system as a bonus item.

Allow me to explain. When I was 12 years old, I saw Japanese games for the first time in my life. They were previewed in issue #14 of Electronic Gaming Monthly. EGM was covering the 1990 Tokyo Toy Show, and what I saw in the magazine blew my mind. It was then that I decided that I must make my way to Japan somehow and pick up all those great-looking games that would never come to North America.

Here are the older game racks. On the left are GameGear and Famicom games; on the right are PC-Engine and Mega-CD games; and finally, at back are loose Famicom games! A little expensive, those, but a good selection!
This is a second-hand shop, or what Japanese people call "Recycle" shop. It's great! It's where I've bought many games, CDs, a computer, and trinkets such as a Rockman keychain. Picture Goodwill, but with 10 times better stuff!
And, hey, any shop that names itself after a Famicom Disk game earns my respect!

Japan is a great country when it comes to used games. Apart from the obvious rare games, most games go down in price the moment they are released. Add to that the Japanese thirst for New Things and you have a situation where you can find a used copy of a game that had been released the previous month selling at two-thirds or maybe even half the price of the game new. This continues downwards until it gets to the point where one can find classic PC-E, Famicom, SFC, MD, PS, Saturn, Neo-Geo CD, and Gameboy games selling from ¥95 to ¥1000. That's less than 10 dollars! And I've even been given games for free from shopkeepers, just because they needed to get rid of them. I don't think I want to leave this country!

And here is an aerial photo map of Hanamaki city. I've explored it less than Kitakami, but it also has some great shops for games, and is fun to walk around.
This is also a pretty cool game shop in Hanamaki. Although it's a little nondescript, isn't it?

The only situation that I don't like in Japan is what they do to their videogame mags -- they throw them out!!! As I have travelled around Japan, I've searched in bookstores and game shops in Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagoya, Sapporo, and elsewhere looking for old videogame magazines, and I have found very little. Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right places; but still, when one goes into a book/magazine store that's the size of a warehouse, and they have old magazines of every size, description, and age, ranging from car magazines, computers, toys, movies, idols, Playboy, and music but NO VIDEOGAMES, you know something's wrong.

Well, at least there's no mistaking what this shop sells, eh? They're flashy, but have high prices. (But what's that on the door??...)
Ooh! They have the new line of Famicom games emulated on GBA! This is the only shop in Hanamaki that has them in stock at the moment.

Fortunately, I have recently come across the wonder that is Yahoo Japan Auctions! There, I have been able to find many old mags, just what I was looking for, at good prices. Some things are ridiculously overpriced on Yahoo; for example, game music CDs, but other items are generally selling at a favourable price.

And, this is the end result of a good (dozen) day's shopping -- my gameplay centre on a busy day. I think I need 3 more AV selectors, though!
Recently, I've finally been able to collect some old Japanese gaming mags, for cheap! These have proven to be totally great, nostalgic weekend reading!

And so my quest continues. I almost now have as much stuff in Japan as I do stored away in Canada. But most of this was obtained with far less money, so I am soooo lucky! On the other hand, some day I will probably have to ship all of this home, presenting me with a big problem of shipping cost. I have no idea what I shall do. But who cares for now? Now's the time to enjoy the games!

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