[From January Issue 2012]
Up until about ten years ago, recreation for the Japanese elderly comprised mainly of quiet and leisurely activities such as gateball (a game that resembles croquet) and bonsai. But now, the amount of people in their 60s to 80s enjoying games in arcades – traditionally a hangout for the young – has increased.
Some people come alone, and others come in groups of three or four. There are even senior citizens who come during the afternoon hours with their grandchildren. One of the most popular games in the arcade are the coin pusher games, and some people can get caught up in them for hours on end. The game is simple; money is exchanged for medals, which are then inserted into the machine. The medal falls onto a moving platform and, if you’re lucky, forces other medals to fall, which can then be picked up by the player.
For 1,000 yen you can receive 100~200 medals and, depending on the machine, you are able to play with as little as one 100 yen medal. Unlike pachinko and slot games, the law states that medals used in these games cannot be redeemed for cash. “Dino King,” a game themed around dinosaurs is one of the most popular coin pusher games. When you insert a medal, the roulette wheel turns, and the numbers turn on a screen above the medals, just like in pachinko.
KAWAKUSU Tetsuya of Yubis, Co., Ltd., a company responsible for the sale, design and manufacture of game machines, located in Higashi Osaka City, says, “Games where you hit characters with a hammer, such as whack-a-mole and whack-a-gator games, are also popular. They are simple and straightforward, and since you use your reflexes, they are also an effective form of physical therapy, and help prevent the onset of senility.”
Recently game machines have been installed in some nursing homes. “Game machines are expensive, so we cannot afford to develop new games for seniors at this time. But in the future, we hope to alter machines by lowering their height or adjusting them so that people in wheelchairs can also play,” he adds.
From January 2011, the largest company in the game industry, Taito Corporation (Shibuya Ward, Tokyo) placed tatami mat benches in some of the arcades they manage. These include “Hello Taito Kameari” in Katsushika Ward and “Exer” in Tama City. Both arcades are located in Tokyo and have high numbers of elderly clientele. Popular with visitors, the number of arcades to install tatami benches has now reached 18.
“As we aim to run clean, well lit and safe facilities, this has resulted in an increase in senior visitors. It seems that everyone enjoys games. Many others also visit the arcade to make friends, or to enjoy conversing with staff,” says Taito’s PR representative.
TANAKA Yoshiaki and Rinko who lives in Neyagawa City, Osaka often visits the arcade with his grandson, Kamui. “I try my hand at the crane games to get stuffed dolls for my grandson, or we enjoy simple games together. Unlike the old days, arcades are now very accessible for elderly people like me,” he says. According data compiled in 2010 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the percentage of the population over 65 years of age is 23.1%, and the number is increasing year by year.
Text: MUKAI Natsuko