NOTE: The events below occurred a couple of weeks before Tokyo (re)declared a state of emergency.
(English follows) 私、本当にバカ。ゲーセンが苦手なのに虎杖君のプライズを見て欲しくなったあまり、莫大な富（笑）をかけて釣ってみたが全然ダメでした（泣）あんなにユーチューブのアドバイス動画を観たくせに（笑）結局、駿河屋で買ってしまいました（苦笑）ああ、最初からそうすればよかったのになあ、と。バンダイ及びタイトーの素敵なフィギュアをお迎えできたのでよかったら写真ご覧ください↓
I’ve a confession to make: I am very stupid. Wait, you already knew that. But what you didn’t know is the extent of my stupidity. For some strange reason, I feel a need to tell you all about my stupidity, to serve as a Public Service Announcement, a warning to you if and when – one cold Spring day – you are seized with an inexplicable desire to win a crane game prize at the game center.
Game Center Temptation
You know all about game centers. In Japan we call them ゲーセン gesen, and these places are found everywhere. Game centers are such a staple in the Japanese landscape that I can’t imagine a town without one. For many years I’ve basically ignored gesen because I never really wanted any of the prizes the machines offered.
Until one day, I saw it. Them, to be more precise.
Jujutsu Kaisen’s Yuji Itadori. OMG. I want this toy. These toys.
I dropped in a coin (100 JPY, about one US dollar) and tried. Nope. Then another. Nope. Hmm, I don’t really know what I’m doing. Better watch some YouTube videos and come back some other day.
So I watched a bunch of YouTube videos, such as this:
They are video demonstrations full of advice, offering a bunch of tips, plenty of コツ kotsu or ‘secrets’ you can use to win prizes at the game center.
Armed with my new knowledge, I mentally prepared myself for a night at the game center.
“Any plans for tonight?” an older colleague, an anime and manga fan like me, asked as we were about to call it a day.
“Thinking of going to a gesen,” I said.
“Heh, didn’t know you went to those. You don’t seem to be the kind.”
“No, I really am not. But I saw these Itadori figures and I just have to have them. Any advice?” I asked, showing him a pic of the machines on my phone.
“Ya good at arcade games?”
“Nah, am pretty bad.”
“Video games with a controller?”
I shook my head.
“Billiards, pool, darts, mini golf… games requiring hand-eye coordination?”
Again I shook my head. “Am clumsy, generally speaking.”
“Then you’re better off just buying the prizes from a reseller.”
“But I want the satisfaction of winning the toys for myself…”
“Good luck with that! By the time you’re done, you’ll come crying to me and wishing you just followed my advice.”
Unconvinced, I insisted stubbornly, “Just watched a bunch of YouTube videos. I’ve a feeling I can do well this time.”
He shook his head while giving me a pitying glance.
On my way to the game center I texted my friend Misaki in Osaka: “Hey Mitchan! Gonna go to the gesen tonight and win me a Yuji-kun.”
Her reply: HANA NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Me: Why not? Watched a bunch of YouTube videos. Got it all figured out, I think.
Her: I SAID NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Me: I’ll get ‘em, just wait and see. The figures are all over IG. Everyone’s winning them. Why not me?
Her: DONT BE A DUMBASS HANA!!!!!
Battle Against the Machines
I arrived at the game center, changed some bills into coins using the coin-changing machine. Then I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
To make a long story short, I lost. It started off badly, but like a lab rat desperately pushing on levers in a deluded hope of receiving some food pellets, something snapped inside me pushing me to keep on going, even if the toy wouldn’t move a millimeter.
Textbook definition of stupid, I know. Stupid is when you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.
How much did I lose that night? Don’t ask. Please.
The following day I had to face my colleague. “You were right,” I told him, hanging my head in shame. “Shouldn’t have gone. Toy wouldn’t budge at all.”
“Told you so,” he said. “At least you learned a lesson.”
“Won’t ever go to a gesen again,” I swore, fully chastised.
Mitchan was less gentle: YOU STUPID STUPID GIRL!!!!!
She’s absolutely right.
Me: I really wanted the figures…
Her: YOUR 推し* IS FUSHIGURO
Me: But I love Itadori, too. And Kugisaki. And Gojo and Maki and…
Her: OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
*oshi, being a fan of someone, rooting for someone
I texted Claire-senpai about my losing money at the gesen. She’s been in Japan much longer than I have, so maybe her crane game’s good?
She sent me the lyrics of the Kenny Rogers song The Gambler:
You gotta know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run– From “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
Game centers are kinda like gambling centers, aren’t they? xD
“I’m devastated everyone seems to be winning the figures except me,” I whinged – face green with envy – to my colleague.
“Not everyone’s winning them, don’t be silly,” he replied. “The ones who win are the ones posting on YouTube and Instagram. Who knows the thousands of others who lost and haven’t said a word about it?”
He’s right, as usual.
“Besides,” he continued, “some of those guys who brag about their skills have been playing the gesen since they were kids. That’s a lot of practice!”
I texted another friend of mine, Yuka, about my failure. She said her boyfriend wins gesen plushies for her sometimes, but they seldom go to a namco. Namco is one of the largest game center chains in Japan, run by Bandai Namco, the amusement empire. Namco’s can be notoriously hard, she told me. “Those huge shiny places are quite unfriendly,” she advised. “Better pick a smaller, independent, older establishment. They actually want you to win so you keep coming back.”
The namco game center I went to was an accessible place on my way home from work so I just went there without much thought.
Yuka kindly forwarded the pic I sent her to her boyfriend, who gave me the following advice:
“That particular D-ring setup isn’t for beginners. You need to have a certain level of skill and experience to crack it. From the pic it looks like the rubber stopper has been freshly replaced, and the figure is set far too deep into the pole. Choose a gesen with a machine where the box is positioned on horizontal bars. The YouTube videos for that setup are all straightforward and relatively easy to copy even for beginners. If you want to take on that D-ring, you need to swallow your pride and corner an otaku-looking staff member and ask him to give you advice. Tell him to wipe the tips of the UFO catcher’s arms. Make him watch you play and point out what you’re doing wrong. If you can’t do that, then you’re better off buying from a reseller.”
Ah, tough love! For him it’s all about swallowing one’s pride, but for me it’s something else altogether. The thought of having someone watch me play will likely trigger an anxiety attack, I will be so nervous my mind will go blank, and I’ll be sweating so hard that by the time I do manage to get the toy there’ll be a puddle underneath my feet. Ah, no, I can’t! I just can’t! xD
Yuka and her boyfriend, of course, offered to win the toy for me, but considering all the trouble, not to mention the fact that they live in Hokkaido, I declined their offer while thanking them for all the good advice.
The other day I’d been telling my friend Bob in Italy that I was studying YouTube videos in order to win me a JJK figure at the gesen. I wanted to send her a pic of my hard-won prize and brag about my mad crane game skillz, but ended up having to admit the harsh truth.
“You should’ve given up sooner!” she scolded me. “Those places are designed to make you lose money. They make it look easy but actually isn’t. You live in Japan, ffs, just buy the figure in Akihabara or something!”
She is right, of course. Bob, Misaki, Yuka and her boyfriend, Claire-senpai, my colleague at work… Everyone around me is telling me not to pour my money down the drain at the gesen.
Well, to end this sad story, I really, truly did want the Itadori figures, so I ended up buying them via Suruga-ya, a specialty chain of stores offering anime and manga products, including those sold by resellers.
The pair cost around 3300 JPY (about 30 USD), shipping included, so that’s about 15 dollars per toy. I first tried bidding for them at the largest auction site in Japan, Yahoo! Auction, but found many were willing to pay more than 20 dollars per figure. The Suruga-ya offer turned out to be the best one at this point in time.
As my colleague had said, I’d have been much better off buying from the start. There are game center experts who make a profit winning prizes and reselling them; in the end, better pay them for a toy rather than waste your money going the DIY route.
Because of my failure I was glum the entire day, but my colleague cheered me up by saying 「勉強代だったと思え」(benkyo-dai datta to omoe, think of it as a learning experience).
Each time I go home and see my Itadori figures, they tell me one thing: Don’t try to win me, buy me. Ahaha! Yes, indeed, lesson learnt!
My current dilemma is that Satoru Gojo is now a prize at the gesen. I’ve seen so many pics on Instagram of people bragging about their catch, getting his figure easy-peasy, and each time my eyes begin to water as I click the Like button. How come everyone except me can win coveted prizes at the gesen?!?
Unfortunately, amongst the many posts of Gojo gesen prizes on IG, only one of them has said how much she actually spent (JPY 1500, meaning she played 15 times). What about the others? How much is one willing to pay for a Gojo figure? He is the most popular and thus most expensive character in JJK, I’m sure he will be resold for a much higher price than Itadori’s figures.
What to do? Should I work on my crane game skillz? (I can hear everyone I mentioned above screaming at me: WHAT DILEMMA??? FFS HANA NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!) Ahaha! Maybe I never learn. Wait, I take that back, sorry! No more gesen for me, none at all!
So, what about you, how’s your crane game? Have you got mad UFO catcher skillz? Are you a gesen whiz? Have you won a Jujutsu Kaisen figure or two? How’d you do it? I won’t go anymore (promise!) but I do like to listen to gesen battle stories 😀
Thank you so much for reading! Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. Your comments give me life and are a real source of encouragement. xoxo – hana