Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kyoto: Birthplace of the Famicom

I just got back from a four day trip to Kyoto. As some of you are no doubt aware, Kyoto is the city where Nintendo was founded and where its corporate headquarters are located. It is technically the Famicom's hometown.

Despite that important fact, I didn't visit any Nintendo or Famicom related sites there. Mainly because the thought of spending my vacation time visiting an uninspiring piece of industrial sprawl like Nintendo's headquarters:
would be just too depressing to imagine.

Nonetheless I thought I'd make a blog post about it here, because I have a blog. This one.

Kyoto, for those of you unfamiliar with Japan, is much more well known as the cultural and artistic centre of the country than for any connection with Nintendo. It has a slew of UNESCO world heritage sites and about 2,000 temples and shrines, which is mainly what we went there for.

I won't bore you with pictures of them as it would be out of character for Famicomblog to feature them (except the one up top which is just there to set the tone really). I thought I'd introduce in photo form some of the quirkier sides of the city. Its a fun town, much like the Famicom is a fun console.

Its got a bit of everything that someone with enough sense to enjoy the Famicom would also find interesting. Highlights include:

Airplanes being used as facades over store entryways:
Lots of cake:
Strange notices in hotel rooms ( from the info sheet in our hotel room, note the second item):
Massive game centres spilling out onto busy sidewalks:
Signs saying "Don't mind the monkeys. We use large size fireworks in order to scare them off.":
Pizzas with marshmallows on them (video of me trying a similarly gross pizza here):
Giant lanterns with red mustaches:
Cute Buddhist statues:
Night traffic in Gion:
This...stuff...whatever it is:
Night shopping:
Flowering trees:
And ridiculously over-sized train stations (my video of the descent into the belly of the beast at night here):
All in all, a great city.

Only two things Famicom related popped out at me on the trip. One was this old sign in front of one of Kyoto's video game shops that we rode past on our rental bikes (great way to see the city, BTW). Looks like they haven't updated it in a while as they are about 3 generations behind:
And this building at the Eikando temple, whose color scheme almost exactly matches the classic Famicom:
I understand that Nintendo went with red because it was the cheapest color on the market at the time, but it is also created a color scheme that some temples and shrines use (though most choose orange rather than maroon).

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend a trip to Kyoto. Its a lovely, silly place.


  1. Great post, sir! I've long wanted to visit Kyoto, much more than Tokyo, and it looks great! That hotel notice made me laugh a lot! I want one of those plushes in the picture below it too! :) By the way, you're a braver man than I for trying those horrifying-looking slices of pizza! :|

  2. Looks like Kyoto is quite a place! Like Simon, I'd love to go there someday. Actually, I'd just like to visit Japan in general. Someday soon! In the meantime, I'll just live vicariously through your blog and photos :)

  3. Simon and Bryan,

    Thanks for the comments. If you ever do get to Japan - I hope you do:) - definitely head down to Kyoto. Its not on the same level as Paris, which has done a far better job of preserving its historic 'look', but its still a "must-see" city in my opinion!

    And yes, it did take some bravery to try that pizza! ;)

  4. Although I like Kyoto, I much prefer Nara. It's like the "Local Kyoto." I might just be biased because it's my girlfriend's hometown.

    Although it's ugly, I recommend going up in Kyoto Tower. It's kind of expensive (I got the ticket for free because the person in front of me in line at the machine forgot to get their change). But it's a pretty cool view at night. You can use the binocular things they have for free and you can see all the temples and such pretty well.

  5. Ah, the old "Kyoto vs. Nara" debate.

    I'm not sure where I stand on that one. I lived in the Kansai area for five years (in Hyogo prefecture) and have been to both a few times. I definitely prefer Nara as a day trip as having most of the big sites in that central park close to the station is really great. I did a cycling day trip around Horyuji and Yakushiji that was fun as well.

    This trip I took last week though I think has put Kyoto ahead in my books. It just has more stuff than Nara. Nara's definitely got that "small city" feel to it, but I rather like Kyoto's urban scenery even though (frankly) it is kind of depressing to consider all the beautiful old neighborhoods they razed to build it.

    I've never been up Kyoto Tower, though I have been in the gift shops on the lower floors a few times (and hated them - very pushy sales staff). If it was free or a 100 yen ride to the top I would definitely go, but I'm not willing to shell out 700 yen to go up that. I visited 6 UNESCO world heritage sites during my trip to Kyoto and not a single one of them charged that much for admission. Plus the view from the top of Kyoto Station across the street is accessible for free!

  6. I want to live in Japan, it's not fair :(

  7. LOL, but you are in the beautiful UK! Tons of fun stuff to do, isn't there? Certainly seems that way from the Austin Powers films, anyway. I visited when I was a kid in about 1986 and seem to remember London having been quite the fun place.

  8. Hi Sean,

    Thanks for this tour of quirkiness.

    Is it true that you went to Kyoto without making the short detour to Osaka DenDen town, and skipped the opportunity for some serious famicom cart gazing / grazing. I personally would have skipped one Unesco site for that.


  9. Thanks, Erik! LOL, I was tempted to head over to DenDen Town in fact, but we just couldn't fit it into our itinerary.

    Love your blog, BTW!

  10. Haha, the Austin Powers films are filmed in California, Sean! :P You're right, things aren't so bad here but Japan is Japan! ALl the crazy and funny stuff that's found there is ONLY found there as far as I know. I'll definitely visit one day :)

  11. You mean to say that Austin Powers does not provide an accurate depiction of day to day life in London?


    LOL, definitely do visit someday, Simon! You could spend a lifetime in Tokyo and still be surprised at the crazy stuff you'll find! :)