As the biggest mecca in the world for anime and video game fans, Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood has an unabashed affection for new technology and fresh content. And yet, perhaps because of the wonderland-like atmosphere for fans, there’s also a lot of nostalgia for the most recognizable examples of Akiba architecture.
Unfortunately for everyone who wants Akihabara to stay as it is in their memories, one of the district’s most iconic video game arcades has announced it will be closing down, and with very little advance notice. The Sega Akihabara Building 2 arcade, located along the southern edge of Akihabara, will be shutting its doors on Aug 30.
Originally opened by Sega in October of 2003 under the name Akihabara Kigo, the arcade started welcoming gamers just as the otaku culture boom really began picking up steam, and has stood through the neighborhood’s transition from a solitary shopping spot to a full-fledged tourist destination drawing otaku both from across Japan and abroad. Standing on a corner directly across from the Manseibashi Bridge that stretches across the Kandagawa River, the unobstructed view of Sega Akihabara Building 2 made the skyscraper a prime canvas for massive murals promoting the latest video game release or anime tie-up.
News of the arcade’s impending closure started circulating on August 1, when visitors saw a sign posted inside the building saying:
“Notice of closure
Thank you for your continued patronage. We are sorry to announce that this branch, Sega Akihabara Building 2, will be closing.
Our last day of operations will be Sunday, August 30.
The entire staff wishes to express, from the bottom of our hearts, our sincere gratitude at the loving support you have given our establishment for so many years.”
Sega has not issued a statement as to why the arcade is closing. The obvious culprit would be a downturn in business due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has vastly decreased the number of visitors to Akihabara, and even among those who are making the trip, the prospect of sitting in an enclosed space while grabbing joysticks and mashing buttons without the machine having a thorough disinfection before the last person vacated it probably isn’t the most appealing prospect. Sega Akihabara Building 2 had been temporarily closed during the spring as the Tokyo municipal government declared a state of emergency in response to the health crisis, and though the arcade reopened on June 12, the reunion will be short-lived.
Even before the start of the pandemic, though, Japan’s arcade business was already in a steady, prolonged decline, as illustrated by the loss of the legendary Warehouse Kawasaki arcade last year. The improved performance and online capabilities of home video game consoles have largely eliminated the need to go anywhere farther than your living room to play the most technically impressive titles or find human companions/competitors, so it’s possible that Sega Akihabara Building 2’s days were numbered regardless of whether or not there was a global plague, especially since, as “Building 2” indicates, it’s not the only arcade Sega manages in Akihabara.
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