Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the Famicom Hunt in Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu`s Mandarake is in there
Yesterday I had a few hours and decided to do something I have never done before: make a trip to another city specifically to check out their Famicom related shops.

This was partly inspired by a sign I saw recently at Mandarake advertising the opening of their new shop in Kitakyushu, which is just an hour away by train.  So yesterday morning I headed off to the nearest JR station and got on board a train headed to Kokura, which is the main station in Kitakyushu.

The ride was kind of nice, I don`t take the train too often in Kyushu but when I lived in the Kansai area back in the late 90s/early 00s I used to take it all the time.  Made me a little nostialigic for those days.  Especially when I got off the train at Kokura at around noon and was greeted with such a stereotypical Japanese train station image: a throng of salary men eating noodles at a platform kiosk.
Salary men in Kysuhu love that Udon
The new Mandarake is located just north of Kokura station in a building called Aru Aru City (a picture of the building is at the top of this post).  If you are big into nerd stuff this building might be worth the trip alone, it is 7 floors of nothing but Otaku stuff.  The top couple of floors are a manga museum.
Personally I have absolutely zero interest in anime, manga, cosplay and all of that other stuff.  I wandered around a bit but just didn`t have any interest in anything.  I like vintage video games and some vintage toys but that is about it, so after a few minutes I decided to just head straight to Mandarake on the fourth floor:

Unfortunately the Kokura Mandarake, like the Fukuoka Mandarake, has a strict no-photos-in-the-store policy with signs to that effect everywhere, so the above photo taken at the entrance is all I got.

It is a pretty decent store though.  It is smaller than the Fukuoka Mandarake, but not too much smaller.  This was what I expected since Kitakyushu itself is a bit smaller than Fukuoka, but not too much smaller.

They had a pretty decent selection of retro games in there, so if you are in Kitakyushu it is definitely worth taking a look.  I would have loved to have been able to take some photos, I have no idea why they don`t allow it, I mean it is effectively free advertising for them if bloggers like me put photos of their stuff up.  Anyway.

I picked up a few things there, not too much but I found a few neat odds and ends that I will devote some future posts too. 

After finishing with Mandarake I headed to the south side of Kokura station.  Before the trip I had done some research using google maps to try to find a few other shops that, like Mandarake, might have some decent Famicom or other retro gaming stuff.  I did this mainly by typing in key words like `Famicom` or `game shop` in Japanese while the map was centred on Kokura.  I was able to find only two places in the station area that seemed promising.

The first was this Book Off:
It is about a ten minute walk south of the station.  I had actually already visited this Book Off in 2008 shortly after I arrived in Japan and the wife and I had a few hours to kill in Kokura for some reason.  This is actually the shop where I bought my very fist Famicom.  I remember it clearly, it was such a bargain at only 1250 yen with all the cables and stuff that I just had to get it.  Good times.

For retro game collectors, as I have said before, Book Offs are very hit and miss.  In my experience about 70-80% of them don`t have any retro games at all and of the few that do they usually have a poor selection or high prices.

This one, however, still has a decent if small selection and quite reasonable prices:
 I ended up dropping about 5000 yen there, mainly on CIB games that I already owned loose but kind of wanted CIB copies of.  The prices were pretty decent, about 20-50% less on average than what Mandarake here in Fukuoka wanted for the ones I got so I thought I might as well splurge!

After Book Off I had one more shop that seemed the most tantalizing and promising just based on its name: Famicom World!!  I did a little research on this one and found a little information here which indicated that they did stock retro games.  They also had this awesome looking photo of the store front, which really got me excited:
 I had a map on hand with the exact location and address marked down.  It was a bit of a hike to get there through some not-very-attractive cityscape, but after about 20 minutes I arrived at the spot where it should have been.

Only trouble was I couldn`t find any store named Famicom World.  I walked up and down the block a couple of times trying to figure it out (Japanese addresses are nowhere near as simple as Western ones so it isn`t just a case of looking for the number on the building).

Then my eyes struck upon this:

 NOOOO!!!  If you look closely you can see the outline in katakana of the words `Famicom` and `World` up there, along with the winged-globe mascot visible in the above photo.  In keeping with the trend of retro game shops going out of business that I noted on here only a few days ago, Famicom World is no more!

So that was a big disappointment and brought my Famicom hunt to an abrupt end.  I`m sure there are a lot of other Famicom shops in Kitakyushu, in fact I know there is a Manga Souko location somewhere in the suburbs up there, but since I was forced by time constraints to stay near the station I unfortunately couldn`t check them out. 

Happily though I did have my hauls from Mandarake and Book Off to console me on the train ride home, so it was a pretty decent day despite the anti-climax of Famicom World!


  1. I actually bought copies of Final Fantasy 4,5,6 at the Book Off in Fukuoka as souvenirs in 2005. I remember them have a good selection of CIB SNES games (Super Famicom)

  2. Sucks you couldn't visit Famicom World, but I'm glad you still managed to have a good time!

  3. Andy - wow, they have been in the biz for a while then! They still havea decent selection of CIB SFC games!

    Thanks, Skyrunner! Famicom World was a let down but otherwise it was a good way to spend an afternoon!

  4. It might not have been Book Off when I was there (or that location may have closed, it was close to the university) but I do remember them having a pretty good collection. The SFC games made great souvenir gifts for my more game obsessed friends.

  5. Ah yes, I missed that `in Fukuoka` part of your comment. There are a few in Fukuoka but there are only about 3 or 4 that stock retro games and they don`t have much these days. The one in Kitakyushu in this post has way better stuff than any in Fukuoka!

  6. I believe I saw other ファミコンワールド shops in Kitakyushu, and I guess something can be found at other small computer games shops (I remember the location of 4-5 of them around the city)

  7. Ah interesting. I saw some other Famicom Worlds on Google Maps, but I wasn`t sure if they were still in business or not and they were a bit too far out of my way for me to visit in person. Are they any good?

  8. Unfortunately I didn't enter inside and/or I didn't pay too much attention to retrogames. I just remember them from my wandering around the city over the last few years.