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).
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.
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!
Entering through the sliding doors you find yourself in a red anti-chamber which looks like something out of Half-Life.
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.
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.
Even the city’s reputation as a den of iniquity for prostitution, gambling, and drugs has been recreated!
The walled city was also known for its high number of unlicensed doctors and dentists, who could operate there without the threat of prosecution – notice the sign on the wall outside the elevators.
Going up to the first floor, two stories of the walled city’s facade have been reimagined.
These sorts of open-fronted meat shops are still a common sight in Hong Kong today.
Those letter boxes look familiar – as do all the advertisement stickers on every surface.
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!
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 check out the related links below for more history on Kowloon Walled City and everything that it’s inspired.