Kowloon Walled City Rebuilt in Japan

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 the 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.


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!

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 check out the related links below for more history on Kowloon Walled City and everything that it’s inspired.

David avatar

51 responses

  1. […] copied three pictures from David’s post below, to give you an impression of how it looks like, but I suggest you head to his blog to read […]

  2. 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.

    1. Thanks Jen!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. Thanks Nat! I remember discovering Nam Koo Terrace while wandering around that area a few years ago. Really creepy, some more info here:


  5. This is based on Kowloon’s Gate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowloon%27s_Gate). There’s an online version of the game in Second Life as well.

    1. Thanks! I didn’t know there was also a game 🙂

      1. 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.

      2. BTW, is photography normally allowed, or did you gain special permission?

        1. 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!

  6. […] within the walls of a warehouse in Japan. They’ve basically created a place that’s part museum and part amusement park. For Americans who may not not understand how bizarre this is, imagine what it’d be like if […]

  7. […] Full Story and Many More Photos: Randomwire: Kowloon Walled City Rebuilt in Japan […]

  8. […] Many of the items found within these halls, including the signs, are based on those that can be seen in old photos and videos of the city. Gambling dens and illegal services of all varieties can be seen just beyond hazy panes of glass. See lots more photos in large sizes at Randomwire. […]

  9. I love it so much!

  10. Joey avatar

    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~ 😉

  11. Wendy Wai avatar
    Wendy Wai

    Holly cow, I will go to Japan just to see such place, dont delieve that.

  12. Angus Hardern avatar
    Angus Hardern

    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!

    1. 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.

    2. Bob Martin avatar
      Bob Martin

      Hello Angus,
      this is a wild shot. I was Googling your name and it came up that you are possibly still in Hong Kong.
      My name is Bob Martin and I use to work with Maggie in the Ministry of Defence in Feltham way back in the 70’s. With my then girlfriend Anne-Marie now my wife, we stayed with you for 3 weeks back in 1978.
      If this email reaches you I would like to get in touch with Maggie again and hopefully you can send me her contact details.

  13. […] history, there are some tells, too — like air conditioning, for one thing. And, according to Randomwire‘s David Gilbert, some very modern Japanese bathrooms hidden beneath a carefully detailed […]

  14. 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.

    1. 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!

  15. […] Many of the items found within these halls, including the signs, are based on those that can be seen in old photos and videos of the city. Gambling dens and illegal services of all varieties can be seen just beyond hazy panes of glass. See lots more photos in large sizes at Randomwire. […]

  16. 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.

    1. Thanks Al – that’s amazing! Hope she has a chance to see it at some point 🙂

    2. Joakim Rådström avatar
      Joakim Rådström

      Dear Al,

      My name is Joakim Rådström and I am a freelance journalist. I would love to write an article about Kowloon Walled City, and would then very much like to get in contact with people who used to live there. Could you contact me through e-mail ([email protected]) or telephone (+46-736 56 76 17)?

      All the best,
      Joakim Rådström

  17. […] built a Bladerunner theme park!” But it’s actually a meticulously detailed replica of Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. The original was torn down in 1993 so, working from photographs, the artist recreated […]

  18. […] to the Kawasaki Warehouse amusement game park,  located between Tokyo and Yokohama since 2009. David Gilbert of Randomwire recently paid a visit to the arcade gaming centre which has been designed as a historical replica […]

  19. Nancy avatar

    It’s octagon not hexagon. ^^

    1. Opps – thanks! Updated 🙂

  20. Kowloon the Walled City and Building 20 | Systems, Sites, And Building: Christopher Rates
  21. […] City of imagination in Games and Entertainment from HongKong to […]

  22. […] Another reason to visit Kawasaki? Besides this one? __________________ I travel:http://buildingmybento.wordpress.com/ I eat:http://collaterallettuce.com/ […]

  23. Starwood Hotel Suggestions for Hong Kong needed. – FlyerTalk Forums

    […] just a standard park with small "archeological" memorial dedicated to its past. However, if you're ever in Kawasaki… __________________ I travel, I eat: […]

  24. […] we are underestimating the distance we are walking every day). Without breakfast, we went to the Kawasaki Warehouse because they rebuilt an area from Hong Kong called Kowloon Walled City, which was more of a ghetto […]

  25. 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,


    1. 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 🙂

  26. […] randomwire.com This personal website  reports on a games company in Japan which decided Kowloon Walled City […]

  27. Stephen avatar

    Hey there! I’m in Tokyo for a couple of weeks on holiday and I wanted to try and visit the place myself. I got to Kawasaki but even though the article said it was a five minute walk, I couldn’t find the place anywhere! Is there a particular exit you’re supposed to go from? I tried using Google maps when I got back but I couldn’t find the warehouse in question. If it’s not too much to ask, is there a map that shows you how to get there from the train station? (The guide said it stuck out like a sore thumb but I couldn’t see anything that looked that derelict)

    1. Hi Stephen, sorry you had trouble finding it. Take a look at the map at the bottom of this post and you’ll see the address is:

      Japan, Kanagawa Prefecture, Kawasaki, Kawasaki Ward, Nisshincho, 3−7

      Put that into Google Maps and you’ll be able to get more accurate directions. Hope you find it next time!

  28. […] of breakfast.   We didn’t linger too long in Tokyo as we were heading towards Kawasaki and an arcade themed after the Kowloon Walled City.  The arcade was definitely crazy-detailed and I commend […]

  29. […] + 九龍城寨「Kowloon Walled City」reborn in 川崎市「Kawasaki (Japan)」. […] + Mars is Not Just a Red […]

  30. Leon avatar

    Hi David,
    This place is fascinating! I plan to visit it, but can you remember the opening time of it and if it is open on Sundays?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Leon – I don’t remember exactly but I imagine it’s 10 or 11am.

  31. […] in Ghost in a Shell.   The Japanese were so intrigued by Kowloon City that they created a three-story theme park in Tokyo replicating everything they could of the […]

  32. […] (Electric Town). It comes as no surprise that Japanese have fetishized Kowloon in modern novels and architecture, as well.   [su_row][su_column size=”1/2″ center=”no” […]


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *