The legendary arcade is closing down for good, but there’s still time to see this awesome piece of history for yourself.

There’s usually not much to say about the architecture or interior design at a video game arcade. People are there for the games, so usually operators simply cram as many machines as they can into the space they have, figuring visitors’ eyes are going to be on the monitors and not much else.

Warehouse Kawasaki, though, is a major, and crazy, exception.

About a 10-minute walk from Kawasaki Station, just a quick train ride from downtown Tokyo, Warehouse Kawasaki stands outside the bright lights of the multiple shopping centers that ring the rail hub. It’s a dark, intimidating monolith, one that’s taken on legendary status in the arcade industry, and its exterior is only the first half of what makes the place special.

On my visit, the weather was suitably cyberpunky, with an intermittent drizzle and fog tinted with the color of neon.

The front entrance is guarded by a dragon and adorned with Chinese good-luck placards, a nod to one of Warehouse Kawasaki’s original influences, Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City tenement block.

▼ Things only get creepier once the doors slide open.

▼ We’re…we’re sure this is the entrance to an arcade, and not a techno murder lab where they harvest replacement organs for cyborgs, right? RIGHT?!?

Once you’ve worked up the courage to step through the menacing-red door, you’ll find yourself in a dark hallway. If there happens to be a crowd, it’s a little less scary, although you might still find yourself wondering if everyone is going to suddenly turn around and reveal that they’re actually ravenous zombies.

If you’re brave enough to make your way down the hall, you’ll eventually come to an escalator that takes you to the second floor, the part of the building where you’ll first find games. Alternately, if the front entrance/zombie corridor are too scary for you, Warehouse Kawasaki also has a back entrance…though really, it looks more like a protective gate to keep bioweapon monstrosities from getting out, not something built to let gamers in.

Once the taijitu doors so slide open, you need to make your way across a series of stepping stones.

No, I’ve got no idea how deep the water goes, or what manner of creatures are lurking down there. But on the reassuring side, you’ve got some twisted metal piping that sort of works like hand rails, and might save you from falling in should you slip…maybe.

Entering the building this way, you’ll next come to a blood-red octagonal passageway, the unusual shape of which makes it feel extra claustrophobic.

Persevere, and you’ll find yourself at the escalator at the end of the zombie-style corridor. Take it up to the second floor…

…and you’ll step out into a more open, but no less crazy space.

This two-floor atrium is Warehouse Kawasaki’s primary attraction: an arcade plopped down into what looks like a dark, decaying cityscape.

Don’t worry, though, while the walls look like they’re covered in grime, it’s actually all clever practical effects, without any real filth. Once you tear your eyes away from the interior design, you’ll start to notice a selection of coin-op games around the “city.”

This part of the building is Warehouse Kawasaki’s retro zone, and while the lineup isn’t huge, what is here is includes some truly groundbreaking, highly influential games, such as Sega’s motion-seat Space Harrier and Out Run, Taito’s three-monitor Darius, and Namco’s Galaga, in cocktail table format no less!

▼ You see, kids, once upon a time, combination table/video games were common in restaurant bars.

Other notable titles include an original Street Fighter machine, with only one button each for punch and kick which register how hard you’re pounding them and have your character attack with matching strength…

…a stand-up Monaco GP with a wood-carved shift knob…

Sonic Blast Heroes, a game where you punch a pop-up pad as hard as you can…

…and even a four-player Gauntlet cabinet, a mainstay of U.S. arcades in the mid 1980’s, but a rarity in Japan.

While the vast majority are still playable, two of the retro games are in states of disrepair that render them pure museum pieces. Some of the Gauntlet joysticks no longer center, and Monaco GP’s monitor is glitching badly enough that you’d essentially be driving blind. Still, they’re nostalgic reminders of classic design, and some of the retro games even have placards next to them explaining their history and importance.

Surprisingly, Warehouse Kawasaki also has an array of modern machines, which you’ll find on the opposite side of the building from the atrium, in a more orthodox-looking environment.

There are even long rows of UFO catchers stocked with plushies and candy, and at five stories tall, the facility boasts a pool hall, ping pong tables, dart boards, and even an Internet/manga cafe.

But while the modern amenities and games are nice, it’s Warehouse Kawasaki’s singular sense of interior design that’s made it a legend among Japanese arcades. Sadly, though, the legend is ending, as the management recently made the sudden announcement that the arcade will be closing for good later this month.

Because of that, Warehouse Kawasaki is shining with its last light, with old-school gamers stopping by to say good-bye as well as people who’ve been putting off a visit rushing to be able to say hello at least once, tossing a few coins into the games for nostalgia trips or new-to-them throwback memories, as well as soaking up the atmosphere and snapping photos.

▼ This is the part where I was planning to brag about setting the number-four high score on Warehouse Kawasaki’s Galaga

▼ …if it weren’t for the fact that the guy at the top of the chart obliterated everyone else’s score more than 10 times over. I’m honesty surprised the management didn’t just recognize him as the game’s rightful owner and let him take the machine home with him.

The facility closes forever on the night of November 17. It’s tempting to recommend checking it out by saying “They sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore!” but in Warehouse Kawasaki’s case, no one else ever did, and it’s a good bet that no one else ever will again, so don’t miss your last chance to experience a part of Japanese video game history.

Arcade information
Warehouse Kawasaki / ウェアハウス川崎
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Kawasaki-ku, Nisshncho 3-7
Open 9 a.m.-11:45 p.m. (Monday-Friday), 7 a.m.-11:45 p.m. (Saturday-Sunday, holidays)

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Follow Casey on Twitter, where if anyone knows an arcade that has a three-screen Ridge Racer or four-player Gunbuster machine, he’d like to hear about it.