Kawasaki Warehouse

If you don’t know anything about Kowloon Walled City (九龍城寨) then have a read of my earlier posts where I looked at what it was (a lawless area of Hong Kong) and what it is today 20 years later (now redeveloped as a park). It’s a fascinating story which was confined to the pages of history until recently when a games company in Japan decided it would make the perfect backdrop to a new arcade they were building in Kawasaki (川崎市 – located between Tokyo and Yokohama).

Kawasaki Warehouse Arcade

Being rather obsessed about the place and after receiving numerous requests from friends in Hong Kong to investigate I got on a train earlier today to take a look.

Kawasaki Warehouse Entrance

After a 5 minute walk from Kawasaki Station (川崎駅) it was easy to spot the amusement complex from its faux rusted exterior sticking out like a sore thumb between standard Japanese tower blocks. Note that it’s over 18′s only!

Red Doorway

Entering through the sliding doors you find yourself in a red anti-chamber which looks like something out of Half-Life.

Kowloon Walled City Reconstruction

Proceeding through the hissing door you’re immediately immersed in a dark and dingy alleyway constructed with the look and feel of the original Kowloon Walled City – grimy, devoid of sunlight and complete with a soundtrack to match.

Exit Sign

All of the signs and posters have been painstakingly recreated from original source material found in old photos of the city and items collected in Hong Kong.

Red Light District

Lady of the Night

Even the city’s reputation as a den of iniquity for prostitution, gambling, and drugs has been recreated!

Warehouse Elevators

The walled city was also known for its high number of unlicensed doctors and dentists, who could operate there without threat of prosecution – notice the sign on the wall outside the elevators.

Kowloon Walled City @ Kawasaki Warehouse

Going up to the first floor, two stories of the walled city’s facade have been reimagined.

Hong Kong Backstreet Reconstruction

These sorts of open-fronted meat shops are still a common sight in Hong Kong today.

Untitled

Those letter boxes look familiar - as do all the advertisement stickers on every surface.

Kawasaki Warehouse Arcade

The facade opens out into the more modern video game arcade – not really my sort of thing but fascinating to see the array of different games on offer. There were even people playing a simulated horse race betting game!

Authentically Dingy Bathroom

The juxtaposition of a high-tech Japanese toilet in an authentically grimy bathroom has to be seen to be believed. I’m just glad nobody caught me taking photos in there!

Rusting

Neon Balcony

No reconstruction of Hong Kong would be complete without neon signs and a bit of rust. No wonder it’s been the inspiration for so many science fiction films over the years (see my project - Recreating Ghost in Hong Kong).

Dingy Dwelling

Luen Hing (H.K.) Co.

2 Hospital Road

All the signs were beautifully hand-painted – ignoring the small spelling mistake I’m a little confused because Hospital Road is on Hong Kong Island, nowhere near the site of Kowloon Walled city.

Reconstructed Street

Kawasaki Warehouse Exit

Kawasaki Warehouse Exit

The rear exit to the amusement complex rather deviates from the theme and moves into the realms of fantasy with a red octagonal corridor which leads into an illuminated stepping-stone pond.

Stepping Stones

Kawasaki Warehouse Portal

Looking like the entrance to a triad gang hideout in a kung-fu B movie it finally opens out to a circular Yin-Yang doorway.

Yin Yang Doorway

Taishiro Hoshino, the mastermind behind the reconstruction has posted a lengthy ‘behind the scenes‘ article which is well worth checking out to see how much attention to detail was put into it (especially the part about collecting real people’s trash in HK).

If you’re on your way to Yokohama or have time to spare while in Tokyo then it’s well worth checking out for something a bit different from the usual tourist attraction – completely free unless you decided to play any of the games.

Update: A big welcome to readers from Reddit, Web Urbanist and Gizmodo! Be sure to checkout the related links below for more history on Kowloon Walled City and everything that it’s inspired. For future updates you can follow Randomwire on Twitter or Facebook.

Comments

  1. Jen Brown says:

    Fascinating to see such amazing details of the old Kowloon Walled City captured in a Tokyo video game arcade. So glad to have stumbled across this via bluebalu’s blog.

  2. Angelina Hue says:

    Wow, this seems quite surreal! Interesting to note that audio recordings were used in this recreation. I don’t suppose that it smells anything like the real thing, with no rats nor dripping pipes above! I’ve been slowly reading the City of Darkness book and it’s fascinating to see the photos + read about some of its former inhabitants lived.

    • David says:

      Yes, luckily no furry creatures or smell-effects! City of Darkness seems to be the definitive history of KWC – I don’t have a copy myself but have really enjoyed looking through it a few times. It makes me sad that this place existed during my lifetime but I never got to see it.

  3. Nat says:

    Wow! Incredible looking! Reminds me a little of the recreations that Ocean Park (in Hong Kong) does for their annual haunted house Halloween. This looks even better though!

    I wonder if the Hospital Road sign has something to do with the area’s reputation as being haunted?

    Great post!

      • Made in DNA says:

        Pleasure. The Second Life recreation and this are so alike, it’s incredible. The attention to lighten and detail are nuts. I’m going to be in Tokyo in a few weeks, I might have to beg my wife to let me go while we are down there.

        • David says:

          I didn’t ask permission but nobody seemed to mind me photographing the walled city floors. I didn’t photograph the areas where people were playing games to avoid any problems. Hope you manage to make it over there!

  4. Joey says:

    It is incredible!
    I ever lived in there and it is the first re-built that really re-call my memories!!! The walls, the alleys, the lighting, etc!!
    One more, the animals e.g. Cats, dogs, rats should be around too~ ;)

  5. Angus Hardern says:

    We lived just 200 metres south of the Walled City for some 13 years and used to take startled visitors into it. (When not allowing them on to our rooftop to have their hair parted by incoming planes landing at Kaitak).Once, going up some stairs in semi darkness ,we came across a flock of geese!

    • David says:

      Thanks Angus – what amazing memories you must have! I’m very envious that you had a chance to see/experience the place while it was still there.

  6. I live in Hong Kong and was born during/after the demolition of the Walled City. It’s looks fun already to see such place being re-built not entirely the same but has the look and modern (gaming) feel to it. Good job. Thanks for sharing.

    • David says:

      Thanks for your comment Alan – I always feel it was a shame that this place existed during my lifetime but I never got a chance to see it for real!

  7. AI says:

    Thanks for posting this!my mom used to live in the Kowloon walled city, I hope one day I could bring her to this place and freshen up her childhood memories. Great work.

  8. Lara says:

    I’m going to Japan later this year and would love to visit the arcade – not because I’m into games, but because I am so fascinated with the Walled City… Also planning on visiting the KWC park in Hong Kong on the same trip!

    I actually created an animation for my final degree project which was completely based on the Kowloon Walled City, http://www.lara-king.co.uk/hnh.html

    Thanks for posting these images.
    Unless I missed it, do you have to pay to enter & if you can remember, was it reasonable?
    Also, is it easy to spot within the area.

    Kind regards,

    Lara

    • David says:

      Hi Lara – thanks for sharing your animation, it’s great! Were you in Hong Kong when you made it?

      The arcade in Japan is completely free to enter and a very worthwhile visit :)

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