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Oh shit… what’s this? Could it be? It is! It’s:

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Yes, it’s NAMJATOWN, a multi-floor themed indoor amusement park. Sort of. While there are three over-riding “games” you can participate in (if you both read and speak perfect Japanese), really, you just go to see one of the most amazing, tacky, fucked-up places you’ve ever been. Seriously. It’s NAMJATOWN. I was first made aware of NAMJATOWN by my buddy Jim Zubkavich of Udon Comics. He, sleep-deprived and in total culture-shock, traversed NAMJATOWN within his first couple of days of being in Japan his first time, and found it thoroughly surreal, and dammit if that wasn’t an experience I wanted for Andrew and I. NAMJATOWN, by NAMCO, makers of Pac Man. Hang on to your hats, kids!

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Maybe whilst in the theme park you would like one of 7 different kinds of massages? Why not enter the massage forest?

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Look, it’s Andrew and Mr. Owl, in the massage forest!

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We’ve entered haunted Edo-period village from the past now. Lots of black light. Oh, and there’s one of those masks with spider-legs that are on the floor up in that birdcage there too. It would periodically move around and scare the bejeezus out of people.

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This man would cut off your hand if you stole his disgusting food. Actually, the food was plastic. Actually, he was animatronic.

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Haunted Buddha statues.
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Crazy 3-d/video screen presentation with creepy frogs singing at you and the many-armed statue dancing along.

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Cat shrines?

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Not just a broken-down truck, it also served food on busier days.

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…and what it served was GYOZA! NAMJATOWN is also the headquarters of the WORLD GYOZA STADIUM, featuring more than a dozen gyoza-maestros strusting their stuff from a cacophony of stalls! I’d been in Japan for 24 hours at this point, and I was used to Japanese people shouting things at me in a language I didn’t understand, but this took me back a little. I’m pretty sure everything translated to “HEY WANNA BUY SOME GYOZA WE HAVE THE BEST GYOZA HERE RATED NUMBER 1 BY SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF HEY DON’T WALK AWAY GYOZA!” I don’t mean to seem rude or anything, but I clearly could not understand these people and that made them shout louder, which I found odd. But… fuck it. Delicious fucking Gyoza. So we went and got some.

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On the left there, the Garlic Gyoza? HOLY SHIT. SO GOOD! Easily the best I’ve ever tasted. I wonder if these guys have to audition to get in here? I mean, you think you’ve had one deep-fried pocket of seasoned pork and garlic, you’ve had them all? Not even close. Just thinking about them now is making my mouth water, and all I have is grilled shrimp Pringles. Sigh.

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This was dish 2. We seriously DEVOURED these Gyoza. They were Garlic and Pork, and were easily the best Gyoza I have ever had. They were so good that my husband had fully half of them, and he’s a vegetarian. I am strongly considering going back at the end of my trip for more Gyoza.

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Our suspiciously attractive gyoza girls.

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NAMJATOWN also has shops decorated with signage. Like this.

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OH LOOK IT’S THE SADDEST CANDY IN THE WORLD. Fucki.

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Despite not being able to take part in the electronic games that were going on, the experience here was still amazing thanks to the expertly crafted llittle streets and walkways….

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Look! It’s Mr. and Mrs. Namjatown, and they’re playing with the children! Run while you still can, kids.

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Gosh, he’s adorable.

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This was a shrine that had at least three different bits of religious iconography in it, which was weird enough, but you actually knelt down in front of that screen on the lower left there to play a game called “Princess Maker 2”. Oh, and don’t worry, there’s a fake bible in front of the angel there on the pillar. Because why wouldn’t there be, it’s NAMJATOWN after all.

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This was the room that… Okay, seriously? There was nothing in this room except for that angel, and video-projected stained glass windows that are washed out a little there by the flash. NOTHING ELSE IN THE ROOM. I really can’t express how little any of this made sense.

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Then in the next room, it was Christmas!

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Giant Italian stone face of truth (more on this later).

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Mmmm, it’s worth noting that the little angels on top of the pillar? They actually moved and played their instruments in time with the music from the merry-go-round. Yeah. They all had different instruments, too.

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Oh shit… I ran right into him. Maybe he won’t notice me?

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Mr. Namjatown notices EVERYTHING.

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There was a tiny plastic net over top of those buns, so you could not steal them.

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Look into the eye and put your hand in his mouth. If you are lying, he will bite it off.

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The official robot of NAMJATOWN. It’s worth noting that this character appears nowhere else in the entire theme park, nor on any goods, and was apparently not attached to or relating to anything. In fact, it was set up in the middle of the fake French/Italian walkway area. I feel like this theme park is constantly being revamped and reworked, it’s almost like a mall where shops or areas close and new ones open up. I feel like this guy was part of something that had disappeared and was just too cool-looking to do away with completely…

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Tourist shot.

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Oh man. This dude was talking and he was SO EMO. All skulls and deep sad voice and goth and shit? But he was behind a two-way mirror, and just as I tried to take another picture… he was gone! I think he’s the angel of death actually. There ain’t no angel of death at Disneyland kids, not even Tokyo Disney.

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Andrew knows what he did.

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It’s a trap!

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This was a fake bar set up in the middle of a hallway. I think it had something to do with one of the games? Maybe?

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We waited around to see what came out of the little box, but nothing ever did.

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It’s the Ice Cream land! Because why have on Ice Cream stand when you can have at least 6!?

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The Ice Cream in Japan museum is housed within NAMJATOWN.

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Here we go.

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I ordered this because I decided I was going to eat weird things on this trip. But yeah, it looked pretty unappetizing.

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Also, the cone said “QUEEN TOP” on it. The jokes write themselves, ladies and gents!

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…and you were all wrong! It wasn’t Sesame Ice Cream, but Sesame Gelato! At least I think so, I can’t read Japanese. It was definitely Gelato though, from…

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Yes… The darkest Gelato known to man… or cute little (badly dressed) Japanese women. Actually, the Gelato Nero in the display case was basically full, with most of the other flavours clearly having at least been ordered. Andrew had a delightful lemon sorbet, for example. Anyway, it was… okay. Sesame-ish, but something else as well, and I think it was actually DYED black. This gelato was so black it actually stained my hands a little. Oh, NAMJATOWN.

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Ghost Panic, one of the games you could play that looked really cool, actually… You held up these little ghost hunting devices and you could see ghosts, I think? Hmm. Oh well. Maybe when my Japanese is better… :-/

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And so we bid farewell to NAMJATOWN, and its weird collection of shit. Did I mention there was a game there where you had to stop terrorists from detonating a dirty-bomb? There was. Just saying. I had a blast though, honestly. We both did. Getting off the plane and, for all intents and purposes, just diving into the wackiest stuff that Tokyo had to offer worked out great for us, I’d recommend it. NAMJATOWN probably wouldn’t have seemed quite so strange if we had a chance to acclimate to the rest of Tokyo first.

Ah, who am I kidding? NAMJATOWN is weird no matter what.

- Christopher
This post had nothing at all to do with comics…


17 Comments on “Japan 2007: Namjatown (Ikebukuro)”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. wintersweet says:

    Aw, man, I think I walked past this going from the station to Sunshine 60. I had no idea. I wouldn’t have missed it if I’d had any idea how much crack-addlery lurked within!

  2. zach worton says:

    namjatown makes no sense!!! i loved this post and it made me want to move in to namjatown…FOREVER!!! i couldn’t stop laughing when you made mr. namjatown cry. namjatown.

    i can’t stop saying/writing namjatown!!!

  3. LillianDP says:

    Wow…four trips to Japan, and I’ve *never* been to Namjatown? This must be remedie, and I can’t wait. Is this actually inside Sunshine 60?

  4. Jerry says:

    Must add namjatown to my life “to do” list right next Shia LeBeauf.

  5. ~raina says:

    Oh my lord. It looks like what I imagine being inside of Super Mario Bros. 2 would be like.

    I’m also impressed that Japan has ‘broken’ Andrew’s vegetarianism. Has he paid the price?

  6. Halliday says:

    “A Gelato so black that not even light can escape it’s surface.”

    Why does that guy on the poster look like Sammy Davis Jr.?

    I’ve seen those GRAVE OF THE FIREFLY candies at the Chinatown Center, but every time I think of buying a tin I fall to my knees sobbing and screaming, “IT’S SO SAD! WHY IS IT SO SAD!?!”

    I think that robot is the King of the Namja-Bots, which only come out at night and steal shit from around Tokyo and use to to build more crazy shit in Namjatown. In like 30 years, there won’t even been a Tokyo anymore… JUST NAMJATOWN. And in, like, 150 years… NAMJAWORLD. It’ll be so gradual we won’t even see it coming, just wake up one morning in the Massage forest surrounded by animatronic Tengu and guys in Mascot suits.

    The future is going to be AWESOME.

  7. tom fowler says:

    i. love . these. pictures.

    although, there’s something vaguely creepy about all the giant cat-heads, and “sweet poison st.”

    as far as the mystery gelato goes (which i thought looked like a little frozen “grimace” at first), if i may venture a guess: could it be squid ink? it’s supposed to be somewhat sweet, but then my only knowledge of japanese food culture comes from watch iron chef reruns.

  8. wintersweet says:

    The gelato definitely looks like black sesame to me (and that stuff can stain). I love it.

  9. Dave White says:

    Heh. I saved the wrapper I got at Gyoza Stadium in Namjatown – it’s got the cat logo on one side, and on the other a chef going all kame-hame-ha with some Gyoza. And a seal of authenticity. It is absolutely awesome.

  10. James Hanrahan says:

    For halliday:
    The guy on the poster looks like Sammy Davis Jr. because it IS Sammy Davis Jr.!
    Sammy did a series of Suntory Whiskey ads both print and television that ran between 1973 through 1978 The print ads were pretty ho-hum but in the TV ads he was often trying to stop a much taller white guy dressed as a burglar from from getting his bottle of Suntory Whiskey White Label. One time this involved Sammy and the whiskey thief playing hot potato with a cannonball bomb with a lit fuse. Suntory has a long history of employing Western celebrities for their commercials but Sammy Davis Jr.’s were some of the wackier and longest running ones.

    I’m just slightly confused by that ad because I thought Gyoza Stadium was supposed to be in a recreation of a postwar-1950s Japanese village at festival time.

  11. Blockade Boy says:

    What an awesome photo-essay!

    Out of all the historical/pop-cultural wackiness of Namjatown, I’m most bemused the little statue portraying General MacArthur as a proud (arrogant?) eagle… with his trademark corncob pipe in his beak.

  12. Halliday says:

    James Hanrahan>I blame the Doctor. Meddling Time-Lord mutha@#$%er!

    Japanese commercials are weird. I saw this one with Nicholas Cage once… Christ.

  13. Halliday says:

    Chris>Are you and Andrew going to America Town? Heather was telling me last night that the Japanese approximation of what America must be like involves a lot of Cowboys and Janet Jackson. Just like the real America!

  14. kira says:

    the more i see the more i want to live there!
    :)

  15. Bitter Matt says:

    I like the lantern in the haunted village, which (I presume?) indicates nearby restroom facilities. Nice touch.

  16. Scott says:

    Wow…that looks just amazing. Miss you guys xo

  17. Japan 2009: Return to NAMJATOWN at Comics212 says:

    [...] Namjatown Photo Gallery: http://comics212.net/2007/09/14/day-02-part-3-namjatown/ Namjatown Website: http://www.namja.jp/ / [...]

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