April 4, 2007

Namja Town

On Wednesday, I had a day off from work on Wednesday, so I met up with Risa and we went to Namja Town. Namja Town is a strange place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo that is essentially a food-based theme park for kids and older kids. It seems like a completely strange place to me, because it was constructed by Namco, a video game company, in conjunction with Bandai Namco group, which is I guess a toy company but I'm not really sure. I'll give you a brief run-down of the things that we did at Namja town, and let you decide for yourself what kind of place this Namja town is.

First up was a trip to Gyoza Stadium, a themed area with a whole bunch of Gyoza shops. There are about 13 shops in the area, all but one (Big Man) specializing in Gyoza. In the middle of the "stadium" there is a seating area, so we went around to three shops and grabbed three types of Gyoza, and some of the crazy Namco-branded Beer. We actually went later and got two more types of Gyoza later on.

We then went over to the Amazon Mosquito Shoot-out, which has the story of some crazy large mosquitos that came to invade Japan from Brazil, so we have to shoot the mosquitos down. It is a tracked ride where you get on these pig things, you know like they have here for burning anti-bug incense with the large mouths, and shoot at mosquitos. The guns shoot light and there are sensors on the mosquitos that track if you hit or not, just like Lazer Tag back in the day. It was actually pretty tough, but kind of fun.

After that, we decided to run the scavenger hunt / town clue hunt type thing. You get these little cats that have RFID chip or something in them, and when you are near a clue the cats meow. You set the cat down on the receptacle for them and then see a clue of some sort. Some of them are just a recorded message, others are some sort of video type thing, or something like that. After running around to the eight or nine stations you go back to the "police station" and then take a little quiz. Now this was really tough for me because the quiz (well, everything really) was all in Japanese. You have to answer each question in five seconds. That is just about enough time for me to read the question, so even with a multiple choice setup I didn't really have much of a chance. Even worse, the questions are hard. For example, at one of the "clues" you ring a doorbell, and then look in through the peep-hole at a scene inside a bar. Ok, putting aside the issue of optics and how looking through a reverse fish-eye peephole would not give you such a clear image, it was a long scene about a woman talking to someone offscreen about losing her husband, and how she is now perhaps ready to move on, and a bunch of details about her life. The question in the quiz about this clue was "What was the color of the table in the bar?" Had I known that question, I could easily answer the question, but of course if you go to ten stations first, not knowing what will be asked, it is impossible to remember all these details. That is probably the plan: you can buy a card of some sort to track your progress and run the course over and over, so it is a way to encourage people (kids) to come back over and over.

On the way out we went to a Karaoke singing competition type ride. I kid you not. You get on a kind of merry-go-round sort of ride (Frog, Octopus, Duck, etc.) and there is a quiz where they play a snippet of music and you tap one of three buttons if you know what it is. If you know what it is, you get to sing it for a little bit. At the end everyone (about 40 people could fit in the room total) sings one song together. Of course, it was really hard because all the songs were older Japanese songs. I didn't know a single one.

Then we went to the Mononoke Town and visited the haunted house thing. You got some weird ghost head on crab legs that again had some sort of proximity sensor that makes the head shake when it is near an attraction, and then you place it on the receptacle and see some sort of animatronic or otherwise event. It was pretty funny actually.

The next stop was upstairs where they had a "miracle fruit" seed type thing that you ate which turned sour things into sweet things. We got a couple of cut up lemons and limes to try it with. From there we went to the "Bomb Ranger" attraction. It is another thing where you lug around a box with a proximity sensor. When you get close to a "Ghost bomb" you have to press a bunch of buttons to disarm the "Ghost bomb" in the short time allotted, a few seconds, and if you do it, then your box "captures" the ghost. There are a total of 49 ghosts hidden around the third floor. I got about 23 of them, Lisa got about 30 I think. It was pretty fun too, but of course it was all in Japanese so I know I missed a few of the big bombs in the "computer room" where they gave you some explanation about how to turn off the bigger more complicated ones.

After that we went to another multi-station kind of thing where we took about nine stops for a health-check kind of thing. There were things like keeping your balance on a wobbly floor, test your reflexes, a station that monitored your brain activity, a quiz type station, and so on. It told me that I was about 46 years old on my first-run through, then on a second I was 48 I think. That wasn't encouraging. To combat my failing health, we took a stop at Ice Cream City. In retrospect, maybe that didn't help. On the way out, we did one more of the those run around and hit the different station quiz things.

It was pretty fun overall, but in truth I was really tired after all that walking around. We didn't even get a chance to see Dessert City or Macaroni town. There were a bunch of other attractions too, but mostly of the same walk around and do things at animatronic station variety. It is worth visiting, but you will do a lot of walking, it is very gimmicky, it isn't cheap, and the food isn't great for the price (but it isn't bad!) I can't think of a similar thing in New York, so in my mind this goes into the "Only in Japan" file.


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