Our reporter returns to a place of her childhood that’s still going strong after decades of operation. 

It’s no secret that Japan is changing, letting go of many of its older buildings and landmarks in favor of huge new skyscrapers with updated interiors packed with entertainment. Our Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake has been checking out some of those old attractions, simply to relive some of the olden days and experience them one last time before they go.

That’s why, when she heard the news that there are only five rooftop arcade parks left in all of Japan, it piqued her interest. In days gone by, such parks on the top of department store buildings were a dime a dozen. They’d have playgrounds, kiddie rides, shops selling udon and yakisoba, and often a stage for performances featuring popular masked superhero characters. Children would spend many a weekend afternoon riding the coin-operated machines, playing arcade games, and eating sweets after dutifully following their parents on shopping trips.

Sadly, those days are, more-or-less, over. Partly because department stores are closing and partly because of the declining birth rate, these rooftop amusement parks have gradually closed their doors too, which is something that makes Mariko, who has lots of memories of playing at one when she was a child, very sad.

Luckily, one of those five remaining spots is in Mariko’s hometown of Nagasaki, on top of the Hamaya department store. Part of a shopping arcade in the Hamanomachi neighborhood of Nagasaki, the Hamaya Department Store is in an old building that’s a famous landmark among Nagasaki locals. The building itself has seen a long life and is looking a little worse for wear, so it doesn’t have the shiny look many of the newer buildings have, but it was still bustling with customers when Mariko went.

Some of her best memories as a child were at this department store, stopping by the toy shop and the Sanrio area, playing in the rooftop arcade park, and then going to the basement level to buy sweets. Even now, thirty-something-odd years later, when she thinks of Hamaya she gets excited. She even has a photo of herself posing in front of a performance of the Dengeki Sentai Changeman Super Sentai show. It was always so busy with people, and you had to wait in line to ride the rides, but Mariko loved it, and the place means a lot to her.

As an adult, Mariko still shops on the fashion and grocery floors of Hamaya, but she hasn’t been back to the park since she was a junior high school student. As she climbed the last flight of stairs to the roof, she found herself feeling somewhat nervous about what she would find.

She’d expected it have only a few kiddie rides and arcade games left, but…

There was an unbelievable number of kiddie rides spread out across the rooftop!

It looked exactly as she remembered it, so when Mariko took her first step onto the roof, it felt a bit like she’d entered a time warp and stepped back to her childhood years. Where–or when–else could you find a ride decorated like the first generation Gundam?

Some of these rides looked incredibly old. After seeing them again, she remembered thinking some of the rides were pretty old even when she was a child.

Now, 30 years later, she’s shocked to see them still operating. They were definitely showing a little wear.

Even more shocking, the cost to ride them hadn’t changed at all. It’s still just 10 yen (US$0.07). You can’t get anything for 10 yen anymore!

As if that wasn’t surprising enough, and as if she wasn’t full of enough nostalgia, the game corner in the blue tent offered more of a surprise.

The dim space was crammed with old games! The word “retro” didn’t even begin to cover the atmosphere inside.

There were games she was sure must have been there since long before she was born.

The machine that made Mariko stop in her tracks as soon as she saw it was the “Dr. Slump Arale” ride. She couldn’t get enough of the character’s mischievous expression.

It was super detailed, even on the back. Mariko wanted to ride it, but with a limit of 20 kilograms (44 pounds), it was clearly only for children, so she abstained.

What also struck her as highly nostalgic was the “Konna Ko Iru Kana” car ride, which features characters from a segment on a popular children’s show from the late ’80s and early ’90s that Haruka remembers well.

There was even a “Pokonyan” slot machine that imitated the animation of the anime’s ending sequence! If you know, you know.

It even shouts “It’s Pokonyan Slot time! Who will it be this time?”, just like they did in the anime, which unlocked so many memories for Haruka. You push the button three times to try to match the characters in a row. Mariko tried it three times, but it was really hard to match them up. Too bad. She really wanted to win the pencil prize.

There were so many cool character machines, including everyone’s favorite classic arcade game, Gator Panic!

Perhaps because it was close to closing, there was a maintenance worker diligently attending to each and every machine, so Mariko decided to ask them about the park. Apparently, no one is manufacturing the parts for most of the machines anymore, so maintaining them is really difficult.

He said it’s even become difficult to find stuffed toys to put in the crane machines, probably because they keep a lot of older characters in there.

The oldest rides in the whole park were these two machines, a tank called “Combat” and a fighter aircraft called “Red Baron.” When Mariko looked it up, she learned that the cross design on the fighter plane is actually the same symbol they used on German fighter planes in World War I.

The screen designs were also super nostalgic.

Everything was nostalgic about this park, so Mariko was relieved to learn that it has no intention of closing any time soon. Even today, it’s busy with children on the weekends, and there were quite a few customers on the day Mariko went, too.

But in Mariko’s opinion, the fact that all of the rides and games still work must be due to the careful maintenance of the employees.

There aren’t any other places like it in all of the country. Where else could possibly have so many nostalgic rides and games? If you find yourself in Nagasaki, why not stop by this old rooftop park on the top of the Hamaya department store? Your visit will likely help keep it open for even longer.

Theme park information
Nagasaki Hamaya Playland / 長崎浜屋百貨店 プレイランド
Nagasaki-ken Nagasaki-shi Hamanocho 7-11
Hours: Summer (3/16-10/14) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Winter (10/15 to 3/15): 10 a.m. to 5:30 pm
Open daily

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