Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Retro Video Game Market

 If you look over on the archive of this blog you`ll note that its first 3 years (2009 – 2012) were a lot busier than its most recent 3 years.  Take a glance through the posts in that first three year period and you will see a lot about me going to game shops in Fukuoka and finding some amazing bargains.  At the end of 2012 I left Fukuoka and haven`t been able to roam the retro game stores like I used to since, hence the lower number of posts since then (not to mention becoming a father in that time period too).

A couple weeks ago I went back down to Fukuoka on business.  I tried checking out some of the game shops I used to write about on here, including Mandarake and 007, while I was in town to see how things are going.

What I found made me realize an important and, I hate to say, sad fact: most of the posts I put up here during the Golden Age early years of Famicomblog are now hopelessly out of date.  I don`t just mean that the details, like what shop had what games, are out of date.  I mean that the entire reality of retro video game collecting in Japan which they depict is one which no longer exists.

To put this in extremely simple form: 5 years ago retro video games in Japan were easy to find and cheap.  Now they are hard to find and expensive. 

And this kind of sucks. At least if you live in Japan and collect old video games.

I`d like to devote one of my longer essay-type posts here to talking about how the used video game market in Japan has gone from one which just a few years ago was full of amazing bargains to one which today features way fewer of them.  I`m going to do so by looking at the development of three distinct modes of buying retro games in Japan and how they have changed over time – big recycle shops, specialist game stores and online auctions.  First up will be the big recycle shops…

The Peculiar History of the Market for Second Hand Goods: Hard Off and the Big Recycle Shops

Most people who have spent some time collecting old video games in Japan are no doubt familiar with the big second hand goods stores, often called `Recycle shops`.  The best  of these in terms of hunting for retro games are major nationwide chains, like Hard Off/Book Off, or regional chains like Manga Souko in Kyushu.  These can sometimes turn up amazing treasures.

If you haven`t been here for too long though you might not realize that these types of stores are actually a relatively new feature of Japan`s retail landscape.  When I arrived here for the very first time in 1999 they were only just starting to appear and prior to the 1990s none of them had existed at all.

Second hand goods in Japan before that time had been a relatively small niche market dominated by pawnbrokers (which still exist but generally trade in higher value goods rather than old video games and thus aren`t on most video game collector`s radars) and smaller mom-and-pop style second hand stores.  During the bubble economy era of the 1980s there seems to have been a social stigma associated with buying used goods in general – one often hears stories of how people instead of selling perfectly good electronics items that might sell for big money in America, would instead just put them out as trash.

More importantly though, the structure of the used goods market before 1995 was heavily influenced by regulations set out in a law called the Used Goods Dealers Act. (For information on this I am aided by a series of very interesting articles by Prof. Frank Bennett entitled `Second Hand Japan: Used Goods Regulation 1645 – Present`). The Act, which was passed in 1949, mainly regulated the trade in second hand goods from a theft-control perspective, viewing it as a problem (since people could fence stolen goods through second hand stores) more than as a market worth promoting.  One of the key requirements of the Act was that all businesses operating second hand goods stores required a special license to do so.  This wasn`t in itself necessarily problematic, but these licenses could be revoked if a business was found to have sold stolen goods.  Since the license was granted to a business as a whole rather than to a specific store, Prof. Bennett opines that this largely discouraged the development of businesses running chain recycle stores.  Under those regulations, if a chain like Hard Off had existed and one random part time employee of at one of their hundreds of locations had inadvertently bought and sold a stolen TV for example, the entire chain (as opposed to just that one location) could be shut down.  The risk of that happening thus prevented Hard Off and other chain recycle shops from existing under that system – nobody would be willing to take the risk of creating a business model with such an Achilles heel. 

A second area of regulation which affected second hand retailers is that affecting large scale retailers.  Prior to the late 1990s large scale retailers (ie box stores) were subject to a fairly rigorous approval process whenever they wanted to open a new location.  Small scale retailers had a lot of say in that process and could effectively veto plans for any stores that might harm their interests opening up nearby, which meant that there were actually very few large box stores in Japan until the turn of the 21st century (department stores and supermarket chains like Daiei being an exception). Since most of the big recycling stores today are based on a box-store type business model (they need a lot of floor-space to stock a wide range of goods in order to attract customers), this feature of the regulations also prevented Hard-Off type businesses from existing.

In the late 1990s both of these areas of regulation were significantly changed, with the licensing system for used goods businesses abolished in 1995 and the approval process for box stores significantly de-regulated a couple of years later.  Not coincidentally Hard Off opened its first location at this time and the chain stores that we know today began popping up in all corners of the country.  This was also helped along by the negative economic picture in Japan in the late 1990s, which made people appreciate the value of used goods more than they had previously.

Famicom and other retro video games were among the variety of goods which these chains would stock. Importantly at the time these chain stores were starting to appear in the wake of deregulation, the Famicom was still a relatively recent item (Hard Off opened its first location only 2 years after the last Famicom game was released) and thus retro games weren`t treated as collector`s items but rather were dealt with in the same way that books, CDs and VHS cassettes were – just used things that people might want to use.

The business model of these shops generally involved (and still involves) people driving up with carloads of old crap they wanted to get rid of and just taking whatever the shop clerk offered them for it.  The clerks would then slap a price on stuff and throw it on shelves.  With things like old video games there is very little consistency among shops within the same chain as to what to charge for a specific game. They were just another random commodity and the store could only make money if they sold things in volume, so the clerks could, given how little they paid for the item (one Hard Off I visited gave a flat rate of 10 Yen per Famicom game regardless of the title) put whatever price they wanted on something.  This made these shops a collector`s paradise if you happened to be in the right place at the right time.

When I first arrived in 2008 I got most of my games from chain stores like these – especially Omocha Souko which I have numerous posts on here about.  Two big things have happened in recent years which have really changed the usefulness of these shops to video game collectors though.  The first is that both the shops and the people driving carloads of junk to them have obviously become much more aware of the fact that video games are a collector`s item than they were 5 or 6 years ago.  I don`t have as much time as I used to for video game shopping, but I still drop by Hard Offs and similar stores every once in a while and it has been a long time – years – since I found a great bargain at one.  The standard experience I get when I walk into one today is a retro game section consisting of a rack full of Super Famicom tennis and soccer games for 500 Yen each, along with a pile of broken PS1 controllers (this is what I found at 007 in Fukuoka the other day).  The days when clueless people would dig out a box with 50-100 games in it that was covered in dust and included copies of rarities like Gimmick in it, truck it over to a Hard Off, sell it to an equally clueless clerk who would then dump everything into a 200 Yen each bargain bin seem to be over.  TV shows highlighting the collector value ofvideo games have probably played some role in this.

The second problem is that the big chain stores themselves are starting to disappear.  My beloved Omocha-Souko of course closed down in 2012, but it is hardly alone.  I don`t have any data on this, but I do know of several other chain recycle stores and Book Off/ Hard Off locations which have closed in the past 4 years (and none which have opened in the same time).  Book Off seems to have been particularly hard hit, the suburban Japanese landscape is becoming increasingly cluttered with box store locations that you can easily tell are former Book Off locations based on the distinctive yellow and blue color pattern left on the buildings.  Increased competition from online auctions is the most likely culprit, and I will get to them a bit below. 

Basically what I want to say though is that the big chain recycling stores are kind of an interesting, but probably disappearing, element of the retro game collecting experience in Japan. De-regulation in the 1990s allowed them to burst onto the scene and for about a decade they provided an amazing source of cheap games to pick over.  That window seems to be closing now, which is kind of a shame.  Glad I was here to experience it while it was still open though.

The Video Game Specialists – Mandarake and Super Potato

In the previous section I mainly talked about large recycling shops, but its important to bear in mind that those shops generally don`t specialize in games or have any knowledge about them.  Some shops, however, do specialize in games and cater to gamers (and collectors of games) in particular.  

It is hard to find information about some of these.  Obviously game shops have existed since the first video games went on sale, but what about game shops that specifically stocked used games?  Anecdotal evidence from my travels suggests that a lot of mom and pop style shops did start to spring up during the Famicom`s original lifetime.  Coinciding as it did with the above mentioned regulatory framework favoring small retailers these seem to have been small, family owned businesses.  Many of the smaller ones I visited in Fukuoka while I was there seem to have closed and I don`t have a lot of info on them.  But two of the more successful ones which eventually became chains – Mandarake and Super Potato – we can talk a bit about.

Aside from both being chain stores that often operate in close proximity to each other, Mandarake and Super Potato are quite a bit different creatures.  Super Potato is actually the only one that really counts as a `pure` retro game store since that is all it sells, while Mandarake sells a wide variety of other goods (mainly comic books, toys and cosplay stuff).  An important common feature they have though is that unlike the big recycle shops they both have specialist staff who know the value of games and have long priced things accordingly.

It would be really useful to know a bit more about Super Potato`s origins as a store, but the internet doesn`t really tell us much (at least as far as I can find – anyone out there know a bit more?)  Its website says nothing about the store`s history, nor does the Japanese Wikipedia page or any other sources I could find.  Mandarake, on the other hand, is a publicly traded company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and subject to certain disclosure requirements and thus it is much easier to find out historical information about it.

The first Mandarake store was opened in Nakano (Tokyo) in 1980, under the simple name `Manga Used Book Store`.  Judging by the name it likely specialized only in comic books at first.  Business seems to have gone well and it was incorporated in 1987 under the name Mandarake with a capital of 2 million yen (about $18,000 US at today`s exchange rates, not a huge sum).  It opened its second store in Shibuya in 1994 and in the following years would further expand to Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo, as well as opening further locations within Tokyo. 

Its sales have grown year on year – from 1.4 billion yen in 1995 to 8.6 billion yen in 2012 (the last year for which data is posted on its website).  This would seem to indicate that it is doing well, but it is a bit difficult to determine how much of this amount is attributable to retro video games (which generally only take up 10-20% of floor space at the Mandarakes I have been to) and how much is from other merchandise.

While we don`t have much information on Super Potato`s origins, we can piece together a bit of its recent story based on information about store closures.  According to its Japanese Wikipedia page, 10 different Super Potato locations have closed across Japan since 2009, with 8 of those coming in the period 2013-2014.  In the same time period, only one new store (in Nagoya, as first reported here on this very blog!) opened.  For a chain that currently has only 10 stores in operation, closures of that scale are huge. 

This isn`t a perfect comparison, but I think it can generally be said that Mandarake is a growing business while Super Potato is a shrinking one and the main difference between them is that Super Potato is a pure retro game shop while Mandarake has a much more diversified product range.  It is hard to speculate about what problems Super Potato is facing (I note that its prices have always been on the high side for Japan), but I suspect some of it might be owing to the above mentioned changes in the retro video game market as a whole – it is simply getting harder to find cheap stock on the one hand, while increased competition from online auctions is probably biting into their customer base more than it is for the more diversified Mandarake.  Either way, Super Potato is kind of the market leader for retro game shops in Japan and if it is doing bad, this bodes poorly for other specialist shops too.  This brings us to….

The Online Market – Yahoo Auctions

Finally we come to the big elephant in the room – online auctions.  Even online, it seems, Japan has to be different from the rest of the world.  Ebay tried entering the Japanese market in the early 00s but quickly withdrew after failing to make much of an impact (probably due to the prevalence of postal accounts, which allow for free transfers between buyers and sellers.  Paypal fees? No thanks.)  Yahoo Auctions is the big one.  And at any given moment it has a huge amount of retro video game stuff up for bid.

I have been an active user of Yahoo Auctions (only as a buyer) for almost 5 years now and I can say from firsthand experience that the market has changed radically in that time.  In keeping with the above description of the big recycling shops, when I first joined Yahoo Auctions it was obvious that a lot of the games were being sold in lots by people who didn`t have much idea as to the rarity/value of the games they were selling.  This suggested that people who would previously have been dumping those games at recycling shops were now dumping them on Yahoo Auctions in order to cut out the middle man. 

Most interesting though – and fun for me at the time – was that the auction prices never seemed to go too high.  Often you could get stuff for a tiny fraction of what it would sell for on Ebay.  So in addition to relatively uninformed sellers you also had a fairly laid back set of uninformed buyers bidding on the stuff and building up nice collections on the cheap. 

This dynamic no longer exists.  Sellers now are obviously way more knowledgeable than they were in 2011 or 2012 – you almost never see a rare game stuck in a huge lot anymore, and on rare occasions when you do the seller has usually put that game`s title prominently in the description.  Prices too have gone through the roof – I wouldn`t say there are no longer any deals to be found, but when you find them they tend to be much more modest (no steals, but maybe some decent priced stuff) and they happen way less often. 

Japanese bloggers generally chalk these huge price increases on Yahoo Auctions to overseas buyers and I think that is probably the case.  One big piece of evidence supporting this theory is the correlation between exchange rates and game prices on Yahoo Auctions.  The first big bump in prices I noticed happened shortly after the Yen lost a large chunk of its value against the Dollar about 3 years ago (which wouldn`t have happened if only domestic buyers were to blame).  Another is that proxy services which allow overseas bidders to bid on stuff seem to have proliferated over the past few years, making the Yahoo Auction market much more open to the rest of the world than it was a few years ago (and thus much more easily influenced by foreign prices). For famous and hard to find games (Contra, Crisis Force, etc), the prices on Yahoo Auctions in 2011 for single copies used to be easily half what you would have paid on Ebay, but now they are pretty close to even.  It is really hard to explain this increase based on any changes particular to Japanese collectors, so I think the influence of overseas buyers is by far the biggest factor driving this.  This of course has side effects on physical stores in Japan, who in addition to having more difficulty getting stock in the first place are also more incentivized to sell their games on Yahoo Auctions where they can reach overseas buyers willing to pay much more for games than Japanese buyers are, thus making the brick and mortar stores even less appealing to bargain hunters. 


It is kind of sad to say but I think the market for retro games in Japan has basically gone global, meaning the selection of games and the prices charged for them to collectors living in Japan (or visiting) is a lot less attractive than it used to be.  A lot of the stuff I said in posts like this one here simply doesn`t seem to be the case anymore.  The big recycling shops that used to dump treasures into junk bins are disappearing and the ones which still exist don`t get many treasures to dump anymore.  The specialist stores seem to be having trouble making their business model work in the era of online auctions.  And the online auctions have seen prices explode over the past few years, which has effects on the other two.  Its an irreversible cycle that will probably continue down that path for a while before it hits some sort of equilibrium when prices stabilize on the international market. 

This isn`t to say that you can`t find bargains, they still probably exist out there.  Somewhere.  But the wild west days of finding copies of Gimmick for 100 Yen seem to have past us by.


  1. Yeah, I've been hearing a lot about this in the last year or two. It's a shame since I've never gotten the chance to go to Japan. But at the same time, I've also started importing games with a lot more frequency these days.

    Sorry to hear some of your favorite stores are gone/reduced. Hopefully you'll find some new treasures to replace them.

  2. Thanks! Fortunately I pieced together a lot of my collection before the prices exploded.

    If you ever do come to Japan, the shopping is still not bad, its just not quite as full of insane bargains like it was a few years back.

    1. Yeah, I enjoy just the act of window for games. So even if the prices aren't amazing, I'd have a lot of fun with it. Maybe, some day, one day lol.

  3. Amazing read there Sean - it's interesting that we can see similar parallels in the US, and closer to home for me, Australia. One element of the foreign influence in the rising prices of Japanese second hand games that I think has had a big influence is the rise of resellers either within Japan or visiting Japan in order to buy up cheap lots of games and re-sell when they get home. While I find the greed frustrating, on another level I couldn't blame them - if I could travel to Japan and come home with enough stuff to sell off to effectively offset the cost of getting there (in whole or in part), I'd be tempted as well...

  4. Thanks Sean. Yeah, it does seem there are a lot of re-sellers who must be part of the reason. Actually I am a bit guilty of that myself, I used to buy large lots that might have had only 2 or 3 games I needed in them and then sell the rest. It was a good way to build up my own collection cheaply, but I`ve had to stop doing that now since the prices are so high I would have to charge way too much for the games.

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  6. Yeah, i've been noticing this happening too. I'm still finding the odd bargain down here in southern Kyushu. (300 yen gameboy micro anyone?) but things are definitely thinner on the ground. My once weekly visits are now yielding a lot less to add to the collection sadly...

    1. Interesting. I never made it down to southern Kyushu (at least not for game hunting), glad to hear that you can at least still find the odd bargain like that from time to time!

      I drop by shops about once or twice a month now (in Nagoya) and its pretty rare for me to walk out with anything these days. About five years ago in Fukuoka I was coming home from shops with bags full of stuff all the time....

    2. There are still quite a few mom n' pop recycle stores down here, which helps a lot (barring one that has an owner who uses Yahoo Auction listings to make prices). I make a couple of trips a year to the farther ones, always an adventure. Going next weekend, will report back. :)

    3. Good to hear! And good luck with the next shopping trip!

  7. I'm also curious about the decline of Chameleon Club. I could be way off on this, I got the feeling that a bunch have closed in the past few years.

    1. I have never actually seen a Chameleon Club store, though I know of them since I see their labels on the backs of a lot of FC games. Maybe they are just a Tokyo chain?

  8. It's a tragic story, but from my perspective you're describing the terrible times like they were amazing. I've got the pieces from about 1995-2005. I first went to Japan in 1995, and was able to buy new on the shelf PCE games from Toys R Us, as well as small mom n pop shops full of GameBoy and CoreGrafx and NeoGeo stuff.

    A couple of years later, the clearance started. PCE games, often new, by the boxload. A hundred games for a hundred bucks. There was no Japanese collector market. Yahoo auctions were free, sellers had no idea of value, and there were no collectors snapping up the good stuff. When ebay pulled out of Japan, Yahoo immediately started charging sellers, and auction quantities dropped by (no fooling) 90%. The game supply stopped dead, it was unbelievable.

    I moved to Japan in 2000, and I used to tour a dozen Hard-Off stores every week, filling up the car with bag after bag of incredible bargains and rarities. I never had a job in Japan, I financed my life and a huge personal collection by selling to buyers overseas. It was very lucrative for a couple of years. But then the Japanese caught on.

    Prices started skyrocketing, my margins went from 90% to 15% and I couldn't survive. The market polarized: everything was either solid gold with no supply and high cost, or it was worthless. The little mom n pop shops couldn't keep up, they all closed or changed business. The local Tomato Club went from being the best game store in the prefecture to selling nothing but YuGiOh cards. All the arcades are gone. Toys R Us got out of games a decade ago.

    I left Japan in 2005, and it was already awful. I go back every year to find another 50% of my favourite shops are gone, Akihabara is boring maid-cafe bullshit, Hard Off is a waste of time, and it's damn hard finding bargains on yahoo.

    When I lost 80% of my collection in the Queensland floods I had to give up gaming. I'd have to pay ten times more than I did to replace most of it. I got lucky once, Japan was awesome for a while, but the golden age of games is long over.

    Though, last year, I found several stores a long way out of Tokyo that still had supply and good prices. Sometimes you get lucky.

    1. Thanks for the interesting comment. Actually my first time living in Japan would have overlapped with yours (I was first here from 1999 to 2005), but at the time I wasn`t into retro games. Kind of wish I had been after reading that, it must have been amazing hunting back then! That is pretty cool that you were able to support yourself on game sales alone back then (I was slaving away as an Eikaiwa teacher for those years). Bummer about losing your collection in the floods.

  9. Great article! I'm glad you pointed out the history of the big second hand good shops, especially how they only really showed up in the 90s. When I was in elementary school and got to visit Japan several times and there were no places that sold used games. However what was interesting is that older games that had been out for a while were usually discounted heavily to try and make room on the shelves for new games. This was amazing to me at the time because US NES games rarely went on sale. I was able to get a few famicom games brand new for roughly $20 USD this way... doesn't sound like such a big deal steal wise in the more modern world, but at the time it was huge!

    1. Interesting! When I first came here I remember it was still the N64/PS1/Saturn generation that was on store shelves. When the Game Cube/PS2/Dreamcast came out I vaguely recall those earlier console games going on sale, but I didn`t buy any (though I was tempted at the time to pick up an N64, I love that console).

  10. It's too bad the Japanese retro market is going to shambles! It's already an absolute mess here in Atlantic Canada. NES prices are total madness, which is why I've come to you for games, haha.

  11. Dang, this is too bad! I was hoping I'd get to visit Japan during its rise, but sounds like a nope now.
    I definitely appreciate all the research that went into this.

    Looks like they've caught up to America now, where in a similar fashion, games are sparse "on the streets" and online sellers are almost annoyingly knowledgeable.
    I only know of one consistent store near me that sells retro games, and they don't have much of a selection of anything, except probably like ~10 SNES games and ~10 Game Gear games, all of which are probably more expensive than on eBay. I've bought about 2 NES games there (the only ones I've ever seen there in fact), and they were both sports games. (10-Yard Fight and..."Jack Nicklaus [something something] Golf" which is probably one of the worst golfing games or even video games in general I have ever played.)

    1. Well, I don`t want to overstate the case - there are still decent shops out there that are well stocked and not rip-off level expensive, so you can definitely have fun going shopping. Its more that the ones with huge stocks of super cheap games that used to abound are more or less history by now!

  12. The "wild west" days are over for sure, but it is nice at least that the FC still seems to have an overall affordable library. I guess I am part of the problem, though, since I'm an American building a foreign game collection.

    Prices for SNES games, on the other hand, have skyrocketed recently (I saw a copy of "EVO" at a local game shop recently for $200). I also recently started collecting PC Engine stuff, and many of the great games for that console are in the $30 to $100 range.

    Hopefully this post doesn't mean your sale thread on FC World is going to be drying up any time soon. :)

  13. Hey there. I saw you were in Osaka and I am going there in a few weeks. I was wondering if you saw any stores that sold Nintendo figurines and such?

    1. Hi. Can`t remember off the top of my head, but Super Potato and Mandarake both carry tons of stuff like that so be sure to check them out.

  14. Replies
    1. Thanks a lot! It has been a long time since my last post (been busy) but hopefully I will resurrect the blog sometime in the not too distant future :)

  15. Great post man. I live in Kanagawa and the shops aren't great for bargains. I started living here in 2013 so I never experienced the golden era. I have gotten some deals like a game boy micro with 24 games for 9,000¥. But that's super rare and just pure luck😲
    If you are ever out this way, give me a shout. I don't keep my old blog active anymore (sorry to all five people that read videogameafterlife) but I can be found pretty easily by my handle Tokyopotato on Instagram.

  16. I came to Fukuoka about 5 years ago and a lot has definitely changed in that time.

    When I first arrived I found out about many of the shops thanks to your blog, but Omocha Souka only had the one store in Kaizuka, the others had already closed down and it wasn't long until the Kaizuka one went too. But it was
    easily the best place to get stuff.

    After that so many other shops have closed (both game stores and general second hand stores too), the ones that have survived have scaled back their retro stuff or removed it completely. The ファミックス stores have gone, last time I went to Philips the retro section was basically a single shelf of scraps and even some Book Offs have disappeared (the remaining ones also have started selling any valuable games on Yahoo Auctions).

    As well as Yahoo Auctions, the mobile flea market apps like メリカリ have become popular recently and you can sometimes get good deals on there. You have to be quick, but at least they don't involve bidding wars with foreign buyers!

    I've always enjoy checking the shops for games and the vast majority of my super famicom collection come from physical stores in Fukuoka, but I find I'm buying more and more stuff online as I end up just seeing the same games on the shelves everytime.

    Also bought a Mega Drive recently and I never see any games for that out in the wild (except for Mandarake and it's outrageous pricing), so it's possible I'll never buy a game for that from a physical store.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Its sad to hear that Fukuoka's retro gaming shopping scene has continued its decline, its been 4 years since i left and I have such fond memories...

      Is the omocha Souko out east near Koga still open? It was the last one standing after the Kaizuka branch closed down. The Manga Souko way out in Dazaifu was also pretty good, not sure if it is still around but I remember it being a hidden gem out in the burbs (that I only made it to a couple of times because it is a pain to get to).

      I live in Nagoya now and have almost completely given up on physical stores here - they all are pretty much like you describe. Overpriced or understocked.

  17. You mean the one in Shingu? I went there once and they were no longer selling games. Oddly, an electronics shop just next to it seemed to have bought all of their stock. They later closed down completely (The entire company went under I believe). The nearby Hard-Off was quite good though. I wonder what it's like now but I live right on the other side of the city, so it'd be quite a hassle to get over there.

    The Manga Souko in Daizaifu is still open and is pretty good for games, but what little hardware they have is always very overpriced. I miss the junk bins at Omocha Souko. I haven't been for a long time, but may pop in over the 3 day weekend.

    Also since posting my original comment I just found out that a specialist retro game shop actually opened in Nakasu, will definitely be checking that out. Although I'm expecting very high prices.

    That's pity about Nagoya, you'd hope with a bigger city there would be some good places hidden away.

    1. Oh yeah the one in Shingu is the one I was referring too (had trouble recalling the name). The last time I went was around 2011 or so and they still had some games. Their selection of Famicom stuff was pretty decent, but the prices were a lot higher than what the Kaizuka one had so I didnt go there too often. I remember the Hard Off nearby too, it had a pretty decent selection, there was also a Book Off close by that had some Famicom stuff.

      Its too bad about the whole Omocha Souko company going under, I still have the store's theme song running through my head whenever I go retro game shopping. Back in 2009 they had another location out in the West of Fukuoka, near Meinohama I think. I rode my bike out there once (I lived near Kaizuka so it was a long ride) and it had a pretty decent selection of FC games. I think that was the first to close down though, around 2010 or so. I guess Manga Souko competition might have killed them, but I am not sure why.

      That is great that there is another game shop opening in Nakasu, I sometimes go down to Fukuoka still and will check that out next time I am in town.

  18. Great read, good research. Loved the comment about rocking up to a shop only to find Super Soccer II or some Namco Baseball game for SFC (Tamgochi/Hamster Simulation/Yu GI Oh on GB, Sakura Wars on SS and Famicom Golf are also known public nuisances).
    Very interesting to read your hypothesis about (rich) foreign buyers. It pit me in mind of the curious trend I noticed on Instagram in some Middle Eastern countries for collecting Famicom hardware so perhaps you're right.
    Still love unearthing bargains and current climate makes it extra rewarding when you do find stuff. I'm very tight on purchases to the extent that I'll refuse to pay more than ¥500 with the vast majority of purchases at ¥108-216 and I've got a nice tidy collection of unboxed stuff. Once found some rare FDS boxed games but other than that it's just the best, most fun games mostly Konami, Capcom etc.
    Keep writing these posts Sean!

  19. Thanks! That is interesting about collectors in the Middle East, I guess it is popular everywhere!

    And I am like that too - for the first four years of this blog I was on a strict budget and would only rarely spend more than 500 Yen on a game. I haven't bought any in a couple of years (became a father and lost the time for it), but what I really love about Japan is that even on that budget there were tons of great games to pick up.

    My wife and I used to sometimes talk about whether we wanted to rent a DVD or buy a new Famicom game to pass the time at night, they cost about the same!

  20. There are new and very interesting mobile application in Japan calling メルカリ.
    But seller also doesn't ship from Japan. So asked staff, they helped me.

  21. Meh, in the UK this window was open for, oh, 6 months! A new game chain called Gamestation opened up, and they would buy and sell games. Pretty quickly they built up pretty good "retro" sections where you could get boxed NES, SNES, Master System and Megadrive games for just £1-2 (the latter two would be dreamland prices in Japan, I suppose). They quickly realised the value of retro games, though, and shoved them into a glass case with vastly inflated prices, before long you were lucky to get anything for those systems for under £10. About two years after they opened, they became indistinguishable from shops that sell only new games, the "retro" section being a tiny grab-bag of PS2 / Xbox stuff in one corner. Another shop called CEX or "Entertainment Exchange" opened up a bit later, but they only seemed to go as far back as the PS2 for "retro" as well, and slowly second-hand smartphones and tablets edged out games, DVD's and CD's. They did have nice hand-written and laminated signs around the shop, though. In the brand-synergy conscious west, that's almost unheard of.
    Retro games in the UK today are probably almost entirely online, though London might have some specialist shops. The odd charity shop being run by old grannies may occasionally put a jewel-cased CD game (unboxed old PC game/Playstation/Saturn/Dreamcast) in with the music CD's, though. But it's usually Barbie's Horse Adventure or something.

  22. Some sad stories here. I went to Japan in 2003, loved it and bought a lot of stuff. After a few years I got out of gaming. Now I wish I would have bought all the games I wanted back then, prices are insane. Perhaps the best advice is to go from collector to gamer again. With all the flashcarts out there, you can enjoy the games on original hardware. I know it's not the same as holding the real deal in your hand, but life goes on and so must we.

  23. I remember Chameleon club in Kanazawa in the early 2000s there were atleast two or three. The amount of deals and retro games back then was amazing. Like all good things it has come to an end, or so it seems. I was never a collector but rather into discovering new (to me) games or ports that never made it west. Heck, even the side streets ok Akihabara had deals to be made in the smaller mom pop shops back then. I went to Akihabara in 2016 not really looking for games but I could tell things had changed. The big attraction there seems to be cosplay and idol crap by the shovel load. Either way the high prices of today have pushed me to emulation when discovering new games.

  24. I think part of the problem is buyin into the western speculator trap, and yes, there were many foreigners who inflated the prices.

  25. Holy heck balls, look at all those games! Man, what paradise!