RetroVision – Take a Trip to the Retro Heart of Japan

Super Potato is quite honestly a must see for any visitor to Japan, or any retro fan for that matter.  A place that not only takes you back to the good old days, but at the same time delivers on your every childhood Christmas wish list.  I have lived in Japan on two separate occasions and have visited Super Potato quite a few times, never leaving disappointed.  For those who don’t know what Super Potato is, it’s the ultimate retro gaming chain, with its most famous store buried within the famous ‘Electrical Town’ of Akihabara in Tokyo.

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The store is located only a stones throw away from Akihabara Station, but yet at the same time is easily missable, with this hidden nature lending itself to the analogy of being an Aladdin’s cave of gaming history.  If it wasn’t for the fact that you are in the heart of Japanese geek culture, you could quite possibly mistake the building for an office block.  In fact, Super Potato doesn’t even occupy the first two floors, but once you have climbed the stairs you’ll find three floors of retro heaven, with the third and fourth floors housing all the games, consoles and merchandise available for purchase.

This quintessential Japanese store, is extremely simple, and by western standards very cluttered. However, this means everything is on show…and I mean everything.  Super Potato also treats all of the games with the utmost respect, despite its somewhat cluttered appearance, with games wrapped in plastic and carefully placed in order, with the great majority being boxed.  Every price tag and poster is completely hand written, and you’ll even find hand written notes describing the game and giving a bit of background about it, somewhat like a museum.

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You’ll find no corporate slogans or mass printed sales posters here, giving the store a very indie feel.  Instead you’ll see old gaming posters, memorabilia, and CRT TVs demonstrating a random assortment of retro consoles and retro games.  It should be added that a lot of these are playable.  The fifth and final floor even acts as a mini arcade, and I could have easily spent all day there playing Street Fighter II the last time I was visited.  All of this exemplifies the place’s warm and welcoming appeal, and even if you can’t read or speak Japanese, this friendly welcoming feel, speaks to everyone no matter what language you speak or where you come from – something that is true of Japan in general.

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If there is one downside to the store, it’s that you’ll pay a premium price to shop here.  That doesn’t mean you’ll be paying eBay prices though.  In Japan, retro games can still be picked up at most retail stores that stock video games.  From the leading video game retailer Geo, to a personal favourite of mine, Book Off, which stocks an eye watering array of second hand books, DVDs, music and games.  In these stores, retro games are considerably cheaper, but they don’t have the same dedication to retro that Super Potato has, where you get the feeling that every game here is respected and cared for.  That said, Japan’s overall inclusion and highly respectful treatment of retro across all stores must be applauded.

So, I suppose what everyone is wondering is what did I buy the last time I was there?  Well, having picked up a working Famicom from a local Book Off for the bargain price of 600円 ($5), I decided I needed some more Famicom games, so I focused on this.  I had bought a lot of Famicom games before heading over to Super Potato, but here i was able to pick up some of the more difficult to find titles I needed (or rather, wanted).  As such, I grabbed a Final Fantasy 1 & 2 double cartridge, Fire Emblem and Rockman 3.  Though it must be said that I had to heavily restrain myself,  especially when I saw the original Castlevania, and I can’t wait to go back and get my hands on some more gaming classics for my Japanese retro consoles.

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Put simply, it’s just an extremely casual, friendly, and welcoming place.  It has a quaint family like feeling that speaks to the nature of old school gaming, and makes you feel as though you are amongst like-minded people, which couldn’t be more true.  If you happen to be in Japan, then take a trip to Super Potato and all the other retro goodness it offers.  Or you could even make this the reason for your trip, either way you won’t regret it.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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