An Introduction to Japanese Nightlife with Sega’s Ryu ga Gotok

An Introduction to Japanese Nightlife with Sega’s Ryu ga Gotoku Series

1. It’s about the lights …

An Introduction to Japanese Nightlife with Sega’s Ryu ga Gotoku Series
Japan becomes a dazzling wonderland of lights and colours after dark.

Like Mount Fuji and Shinto Shrines, dazzling neon/LED lit Japanese cities is an integral part of the Japanese nightlife experience. Even if you’re not into anything else mentioned on this list, strolling a Japanese city after it lights up could still be an unforgettable, atmospheric experience.

2. It’s about the food …

Yatai in Ryu ga Gotoku 0.
Eating at a yatai is one of the cheapest uniquely Japanese experiences.

Whether it’s a kaiseki feast at a top restaurant, or a simple oden snack at a yatai, food is an inseparable part of the Japanese nightlife. At the same time, it’s also a privileged peep into Japanese culture and mentality. The cuisine itself often an expression of what Japanese people hold dear to their hearts.

3. It’s about people watching …

Ryu ga Gotoku 6 Photo Mode
Ask nicely and perhaps some Japanese would pose for you?

People watching is fascinating no matter where. In Japan, this is doubly so with the country being one of the foremost bridges between the East and West. By knowing where to head to, you could frequently also enjoy hours of quality performances at practically no cost.

4. It’s about companionship …

Ryu ga Gotoku 0 Screenshot
Though tiny, many Japanese nighttime F&B establishments are wonderfully atmospheric.

Many F&B establishments in land-precious Japanese cities are shoeboxes capable of sitting no more than four or five customers. For these izakayas, snack-bars, etc, a main attraction is the hospitality of the manager. Referred to as masuta (master) or mama, these managers double as chef and bartender, while also conversing with customers and (sometimes) providing a sympathetic ear to life’s challenges. Admittedly, such establishments might be hard for foreigners to penetrate; they require one to at least speak basic Japanese. That said, they are undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of Japanese nightlife. On top of highlighting the dominance of oshaberi i.e. conversation in Japanese entertainment.

5. It’s about … staged companionship …

Ryu ga Gotoku 6 Hostess - Sora.
Paid, tasteful companionship is a staple in Japanese nightlife.

To continue on the above point, those seeking more luxurious and intimate companionship could head to one of Japan’s many host or hostess clubs. Note that when I say intimate, I don’t mean, you know, sex. Many hosts and hostesses provide companionship only, albeit at a premium price.  Like (4), much of this companionship involves talking, intermixed with straight-forward entertainment such as karaoke singing, and so on.

A word of warning about host and hostess clubs. It is well-known that some clubs lure customers into spending exorbitant sums of money, thereafter demanding payment in ways best left unmentioned. If you wish to go to any, be sure to inquire about your destination beforehand. Better still, go with a local veteran of the scene. Like anywhere else in the world, caution must be exercised when paying for such companionship.

6. It’s about the past meeting the present …

A Mahjong Club in Ryu ga Gotoku 0.
A Mahjong Club in Ryu ga Gotoku 0.

One fascinating aspect of Japan is how easily the traditional blends with the modern. An obvious example of this is how classic games like mah-jong and shogi have become staples in Japanese after-dark entertainment. Establishments providing such games, usually smoky and crowded, could be found in practically any Japanese city, and needless to say, you are welcomed to play as long as you have a working knowledge of the games. Should you do so, or if you have a Japanese friend willing to bring you, a visit to any of these places could be the most memorable part of your Japanese stay. Know that simply by stepping in, you have reached the inner depths of Japanese local culture.

7. It’s about letting it go …

Ryu ga Gotoku 0 Karaoke
No matter how awkward it feels, remember, everyone is a hero in karaoke!

Is karaoke a must-try when in Japan? I’d say yes, and I do so because the provision of karaoke is refined to an art in its birth country. Terrified of embarrassing yourself before strangers? No problem. Just head to a karaoke box designed for solo artists. Keen to serenade only your beloved? With no one else around? No problem too. You could spend the whole night doing so, with high-end love hotels providing karaoke as an amenity. The short of it, this popular Japanese entertainment is truly accessible and can be easily enjoyed by anyone willing to give it a go. This includes even younger enthusiasts. There are many establishments catering specifically to students.

8. It’s about indulging in the national sport …

Yoshida Batting Centre in Ryu ga Gotoku 6.
The Yoshida Batting Centre in Ryu ga Gotoku 6.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan. If you’re into it, lucky you. Not only is baseball-related paraphilia easily found in any city, you could also have a go at batting, at the oddest hours of the evening. The Shinjuku Battling Centre, located in the heart of Tokyo’s Kabukicho district, is open until 4 am each day. Many other centres also have hours that stretch beyond midnight. Here, allow me to highlight Shinjuku Batting Centre is the direct inspiration for the Yoshida Batting Centre in the Ryu ga Gotoku series. Visit its website, and you see the version in the games is practically a copy of the actual place.

9. It’s about arcades …

Ryu ga Gotoku 0 UFO Catcher
Beware the UFO catcher! Many great men have fallen to it!

While mobile gaming has taken a large chunk of the market in recent years, arcades still have a heavy presence in Japan. Many are spread over multiple floors, with higher levels typically devoted to more “matured” entertainment such as fruit machines. Ubiquitous to all would be also be purikura machines, and flashily decorated UFO catchers. A UFO catcher is, of course, one of those devious inventions that could hook anyone for hours. This simple game is well capable of inducing rage or ecstasy, within seconds of each other.

10. Japanese Nightlife is NOT about making a scene in public …

Ryu ga Gotoku 0 combat screenshot.
Street brawling is definitely NOT a part of Japanese nightlife!!

Whatever you might have read or heard about Japan’s after-dark entertainment, note this. Order is prized above everything else in Japan. Drunken stupors are tolerated, but barely. The outrageously dressed tend to congregate in certain areas only. Japan welcomes anyone to have a great time in it after dark, but only if you conduct yourself decently. Needless to say, you should also respect its various cultural systems. Its various taboos too.


All screenshots belong to Sega.
If you prefer a different way to experience Japan, please read my retro famicom games post and Yakuza Ishin post!


About Scribbling Geek

The geek divides his free time between video games, movies, anime, and attempting to write decent short stories. Oh, and trying not to sprain his fingers from playing demisemiquavers on his Electone.

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