If you want to tip your hat to Silk Hat, now’s the time.

Much like fax machines and pagers, video game arcades have managed to tenaciously cling to existence in Japan. But pagers are finally a thing of the past in the country, fax machines’ days are looking numbered, and each step forward in home video game technology pushes Japan’s arcades that much closer to the edge of the pit of obsolescence.

The latest sign of the changing times comes from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, where yet another landmark arcade has announced it’s closing its doors. This time it’s Silk hat Ikebukuro, which stands at the end of Sunshine 60 Street (Sunshine 60-dori), across the street from Tokyu Hands and the entrance to the underground passageway that leads into the Sunshine 60 shopping and entertainment complex.

▼ Silk Hat Ikebukuro

▼ Even if you’ve never been to Tokyo, you might recognize it from its cameo in the opening to the third season of Ikebukuro-set anime Durarara!!

Silk Hat Ikebukuro is an archetypal large-scale Japanese arcade, with a lineup of not just joystick-and-button video games, but crane games/UFO catchers, interactive card games, music/rhythm games, and sticker picture booths. With Sunshine 60 Street being a major pedestrian artery for those walking to or from Ikebukuro Station, pretty much every visit to the neighborhood involves passing by the arcade, and with Ikebukuro being one of Tokyo’s major otaku gathering spots, particularly for teenaged game and anime fans, Silk Hat was a popular place to drop in and drop a few coins trying to win an anime character plushie or show off the power of your rare cards to gamers who’d recognize and appreciate them.

▼ The same building even houses a K Books anime specialty store.

But alas, it’s all coming to an end. Silk Hat Ikebukuro ha broken the news that it’s closing down on January 11 through its official Twitter account.

▼ “Silk hat” is what a top hat is called in Japanese, in case you’re wondering about the logo.

The announcement reads:

“Thank you always for your patronage.

We sincerely apologize, but Silk Hat Ikebukuro will be permanently closing on January 11.

The entire staff would like to express out heartfelt appreciation to all of our customers who have lovingly supported us for so long.”

There’s some consolation in that the heads-up comes with more than a month until Silk Hat Ikebukuro shuts down, but it’s still a sad turn of events for those who had happy memories there, and online reactions have included:

“I went there all the time to play games when I was a student, and even as an adult, I always stop be when I’m in Ikebukuro. I’m so sad to hear about this. Thank you for all the good times.”
“The staff was always so polite and friendly. Thank you so much!”
“I used to go there to win Mr. Osmatsu merch from the crane games.”
“I moved to Japan two years ago, and I’ve been going to Silk Hat Ikebukuro ever since. Thank you for the wonderful memories of Ikebukuro.”
“Whoa…another arcade I like to go to is closing down. Probably because of the pandemic, but I’m still bummed.”
“The pandemic isn’t helping, but even before all this, arcades had been losing customers for a long time.”

As alluded to by the last two comments, the arcade industry in Japan has been taking a beating during the coronavirus pandemic, but it wasn’t doing particularly well prior to the health crisis either, as high-spec home consoles and PCs with online play have been steadily eroding arcades’ relevance for years. The coronavirus does seem to be a sort of tipping point, though, and while those with a firm grasp of Ikebukuro geography might point out that there’s still a Sega arcade just a block away from Silk Hat, that chain isn’t doing so great these days either, so if you want to see one of Japan’s multi-floor game centers, it’s probably best not to put it off any longer than you have to.

Arcade information
Silk Hat Ikebukuro / シルクハット池袋
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 1-29, St. Tropez Building 2nd /3rd floor
豊島区 東池袋1丁目29 サントロペビル 2階・3階
Open 10 a.m.-midnight (Monday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-12:45 a.m. (Friday-Sunday, holidays)
Website

Source: Twitter/@SILKHAT_ike via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Silk Hat
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still has fond memories of late-night Tekken fights at the Western Arcade in Walnut.