Friday, March 9, 2012

Omocha Souko Part 2: The Grand Tour

October 1, 2008, by strange coincidence, was both the day that I moved to Fukuoka and the day that Omocha Souko Fukuoka Honten first opened for business.

Fate? I think so.

At the time it opened - and indeed, at the time it will close - Omocha Souko was a store the likes of which this city had never seen before. This was a mega project, the most ambitious toy, comic, game, clothes and general used good store the city had ever seen.

Prior to its opening Maxim City, the company that owns Omocha Souko, had two other locations in town. But this one was different. It was to be the flagship of the entire chain. It wasn`t just going to be a store, but a self-contained entertainment palace. My sorrow at the store`s passing isn`t just because I`ll miss its bargains but because it is without a doubt the most interesting store to just wander through that I have ever seen.

Lets take a little tour just to show what I mean.

Outside you are greeted by one of the two giant TV screens they have constantly broadcasting commercials for the store:
There are three entrances, this being the main one:
On the right as I walked in that day there was a bunch of vinyl albums for sale. Anybody looking for a copy of Richard Valentine`s Come Back Lover? Don`t be shy.Random stuff like that is to be found throughout the store. Just one more thing to love about the place.

The interior of the building is like a maze that you walk around with various passages, rooms and stairways interconnected with each other. The most brilliant part is the fact that the entire place is decorated to look like a post-war retro Showa cityscape with false storefronts everywhere.
It actually looks quite realistic in some places, with laundry even hanging outside the windows:They go all the way up to the ceiling, which is two stories high:
And have a lot of strange details, like this policeman in front of the Koban:
It is the type of place you can easily get lost in, but never be bored with exploring.

The first floor has a bit of everything. The toy section is perhaps the most impressive:
There is also a little shop selling mostly Showa retro style candy:
A little cafe:
The obligatory section dedicated to J-Pop and K-Pop goods:
The used electronics junk section:
And these little toy vending machines that are littered throughout the store:
There is also a sizable used clothing section on the first floor but I`ve never found it to be particularly photogenic.

Upstairs we go!

The gaming section, which takes up about half the space, I have covered here before so I`ll skip that in this post. The rest of the floor is taken up by Pachinko slot machines:
UFO Catchers:
A movie section complete with dedicated VHS cassette tape shelf:
Where you can buy a copy of Dirty Laundry for only 100 yen:
Vinyl records!!
Musical instruments!
Fishing equipment!!
More Pachinko slot machines (I think these were supposed to be the real money makers for them):
And last but not least Manga:
All in all, an impressive array of things. While a lot of other stores offer similar combinations of stuff for sale, I don`t think any of them came close to offering the shopping experience that Omocha Souko did simply because none of them are anywhere near as amibtiously and imaginatively designed and laid out. It is perhaps a bit hard to convey this in words and photos, but perhaps you sense what I am getting at.

Alas it could not last forever. In my next post I`ll examine the possible causes of the downfall of this magnificent store.

Related Posts
- Omocha Souko Part 1: The Greatest Retro Game Store Ever


  1. I feel your pain, sir. As a kid, I used to collect retro games, and not in a sense where I thought "retro" made the games cool, but in a way where my 9 or 10-year-old self genuinely appreciated 8 and 16-bit games. The cool factor came much later in my early 20s. Granted, at 9 years old, the SNES and Genesis were still going strong. Here in Southern California, there was a store called Gameland located in my hometown, Lakewood. This place was a dream to me. It had shelves upon shelves of Super Famicom boxes, Japanese PSX games, Japanese Sega Saturn games, Megadrive, and anything else an American kid could want in the mid-to-late 90s. The kicker: each Super Famicom game was priced very low (around $1-5 for a non-rare title). Usually, if the game had an American counterpart, the American version would be priced much higher. This was a lifesaver for me (who actually had a Super Nintendo "converted" to play Super Famicom games in that same store) and my parents. I got a lot of fun titles that would go for double the price at chain retailers. This tradition of frequenting Gameland went on until my aunt in Japan sent me a PS1. I bought Japanese Parasite Eve for a relatively low price, albeit I cannot read any of the dialogue haha). It's just nice to have a copy. Eventually, the local import video game scene lost its edge, I'm sure due to the internet boom, and Gameland moved to a nearby city. That location finally closed a couple years ago. I'm pretty sure that incarnation was not as great as the early 90s Lakewood location.

    Anyway, as a frequent reader of your blog (and fellow collector), I'll be mourning your loss along with you. Keep up the awesome posts. I can't wait for the next one.

    - Terence

  2. Thanks Terrence! Bummer about Gameland up and moving on you, I can empathize with the attraction of a store that sells Super Famicom games cheaply. Actually I`m a little surprised to hear that they sold SFC games cheaper than the American versions I would have though it would be the other way around given the shipping costs, etc.

  3. Wow. I knew Omocha Souko was impressive, but didn't know that it was impressive as this. I'm fairly certain if this store was near me, I'd be spending hours in it. I absolutely love the "Showa Town."

  4. Sean,

    Now that I think about it, I forgot to mention, I think it had to do with almost all the games being pre-owned. The only games they had sealed were the big-box version of Super Bomberman 2 and a couple rpgs. Even so, great deals either way.

    I bought a used Bio Hazard for Psx for, I think, under $10, while the American counterpart was still a $20 "Greatest Hits" title. My copy was in good condition, and it even had the paper insert that usually went under the plastic wrap/over the jewel case spine. The best part about it, was that the entire game was in English.

  5. Nate - yes, that Showa Town is probably what I will miss most!

    Terence -Ah, that makes sense. That is actually a very impressive price to pay for used ones, even in Japan they usually retail for that (normally about 300 yen for the common games loose).

  6. I would definately get lost in there. Thanks for sharing all pictures.

    By the way, because of your blog i'm looking forward to get a Famicom AV myself. =]

  7. Wow. I never quite grasped in your past posts about this store just how HUGE it is! As such, I'm now as sad as you are that it's about to close. OK, maybe not *as* sad as you are, but still. What a loss to your city :( I'm already eagerly awaiting your next post about Omocha Souko -- to hear/read your thoughts on why it's closing, etc.

    Oh, and one more thing before I hit "Publish": Great photos as always! Thank you for taking and sharing them. They really help bring all of us non-Japanese readers into your world a bit :)

  8. Johnny - thanks, I hope you do get an AV Famicom. I use mine quite a bit!!

    Bryan - Yes, HUGE! And thanks for the compliment, I love taking pictures in game shops like this. Unfortunately they are a poor substitute for visiting the real thing in person, but I try:)

  9. Oh, don't sell yourself short, Sean. I certainly don't think your photos are a poor substitute for the real thing! Of course, what do I know -- I've never been to Omocha Souko. I sure feel as though I've been there, though, thanks to your photos :)

  10. Thanks for the pics, Sean, looks like a fantastic store! I would probably use up most of my holiday looking around places like this if I ever go to Japan :)

  11. Thanks Simon, you`ll need a few days probably if you hit Tokyo, Akihabara (I`m told) is full of places like this!