I’ve yet to write about arcade Candy cabinets here on Arcade Blogger. A “Candy” is a western generic term for the Japanese style sit down arcade cabinets commonly found in Far East countries. Typically constructed using plastic and/or metal, these cabinets have a very distinctive style compared to their European or American counterparts, where wood was the material typically used. Candies are usually white in colour and feature sleek stylish lines.
Candies allow for games to changed very easily within them, housing harnesses such as the Jamma standard. They are plain looking with limited space to advertise the game they might be running at any particular time – again unlike western cabinets, which were usually bespoke made, with marquee and artwork to suit the game.
Very distinctive looking I’m sure you’ll agree. Candy cabinets became very popular in Japan from the early to mid 80s, with row upon row running games being a not uncommon site in Asian arcades. Finding one over these shores is not particularly easy, but with a bit of hunting around on forums such as the excellent Arcade Otaku website, you’ll find a flourishing community of friendly people who restore and trade these cabinets on a regular basis.
I have plans to write up a full article about the subject and various styles of Candy cabinet at some point in the future, but for now, I came across this great story about a Japanese Arcade find involving Candies and wanted to share it here.
After getting a taste for Japanese culture during a brief student exchange visit, US national Alex Meyers decided to relocate to Japan in 2006. Initially Alex thought his visit would be short term, maybe a year or so, but that soon became permanent, and he now has a successful career in the land of the rising sun.
Fast forward to 2014, and Alex along with his girlfriend, is visiting her grandmother, a Taiwanese property developer. Over lunch, she tells them both about the plans she had to convert a property in the Chiba area on the outskirts of Tokyo into a hotel.
As the owner of the property, she went on to explain one of the challenges she was facing, namely that within the property was an old video amusement arcade that she ran since the mid 70s. When a decision was made to close it during the late 90s, the doors were literally shut, leaving all the inventory inside. In short, she needed to get rid of these old cabinets that had sat there for over 20 years – and it needed doing pronto.
As a gamer himself, Alex had a hunch that that these cabinets would be worth something to someone. He asked if he could visit the building to take a look. On opening the doors, this is what greeted him:
The arcade was spread across two floors. On the first were no less than 62 classic Candy cabinets – the inventory consisted of 49 SEGA Aero City arcade cabinets, 6 SEGA Astro City machines, 6 NAMCO Consolettes and 1 Jaleco Pony Mark II:
The Chiba district of Tokyo was known as the red light district area in the 80s, and with gaming taking off globally, it was the perfect place to open up an arcade. It dawned on Alex that if the machines were to be saved, he had to move fast. His girlfriend’s grandmother said she was planning to scrap the machines imminently:
I told her not to throw them away and said I’d deal with selling them, and she said, ‘That’s fine. If you can do that, you can keep the money. I don’t really care’.
But where do you start working out the demand for the machines and understanding their value? Alex took a few photographs and shared them on a couple of websites, Reddit and Arcade Otaku. It became clear pretty quickly that these machines were worth a great deal more if he was able to make arrangements to get them out of the country.
Alex noted at the time that the reaction from the community was incredible – this was such a rare find to western collectors – a candy cabinet is an unusual sight over here, but to see so many discovered under one roof was a one-off event. Some people were quick to help, others not so much. Alex received many messages offering to take some of the “junk” off his hands for free! It was clear that some people keen to get their hands on the haul were jostling for their position at the head of the queue of interested parties that was growing by the day.
It then became apparent that some people upon finding out about the room full of candy cabs were making efforts to locate, identify and expose where the building was. Known as “doxxing” this is typically done with malicious intent. Alex realized he had to move quickly to get these cabinets out and in safe hands, before someone took it upon themselves to break into the building and help themselves to the loot.
Many of the cabinets had been converted to games with adult themes – these were popular among Japanese arcade goers in the late 90’s, and was perhaps a reflection of the arcade’s less than desirable location:
Some of the artwork seemed to indicate that others had a gambling element to them – technically an illegal activity in Japan. But here, both Cherry Master ’97 and El Dorado are positioned as games of skill, thus bypassing these laws:
The other floor housed what appeared to be a plethora of spare parts, boards and a couple of older games:
Again, not so rare in Japanese circles, but a gold mine to collectors in the West.
Thankfully, a purchaser came to the fore who was willing to buy everything as a single lot and arrange shipping to his location in Europe. Recognizing the time constraints and potential hassle of shipping individual cabinets all over the world to individual buyers, Alex felt this was the best solution.
So arrangements were made, money changed hands, and the cabinets were shipped in bulk in a large container to their new owner in Europe. They have since been sold on, and are now in the hands of enthusiasts around mainland Europe and the United Kingdom.
Before the games left the arcade, every one was opened up as the original keys were found – inside almost every machine on the arcade floor was several hundred dollars with of Japanese 100 yen coins – a nice bonus!
The place was stuffed to the gills with arcade scrap:
On speaking with Alex about this incredible find, I get a sense that his enthusiasm for the project at the time waned somewhat as time went on:
I will say that honestly in the end, it was more trouble than it was worth. Between having to deal with the purchaser in Europe, everyone on the forums who was contacting me, people trying doxx the arcade, dig into my past for who knows what reason, I wouldn’t do it again. I mean, if I stumbled upon ANOTHER arcade, I would of course sell it again, but I won’t go looking for it any time soon!
But looking back on the experience a few years later, Alex has a fond memory of the find. The cabinets were rescued (they would have been scrapped had he not got involved) and are now in the hands of collectors. And what’s more, the money received for the games was shared between him, his girlfriend and two other members of the family.
It’s good to think about these cabinets now cherished and played regularly again just as they were 20 years ago. There were many more items found – I’ve archived the full set of photos in the gallery here:
These days, Alex runs his own very active YouTube channel, based out of Japan. Go check him out here.
I’d like to thank Alex for talking with me and allowing me to share the story and pictures here on Arcade Blogger.
Do share this article using the buttons below, and remember you can subscribe to updates with your email address using the floating button on the right!
See you next week.