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Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E4: Ashukurafuto with Brian Ashcraft

Colin Marshall sits down in Osaka, Japan’s Senri-Chūō with Brian Ashcraft, Senior Contributing Editor for video game site Kotaku, contributor at Wired, and author of the books Arcade Mania! and Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential. They discuss the kind of arcade gaming best (and now only) seen in Japan; the Expo 70-developed north of Osaka versus the city’s “real” south; Osaka’s reputation across Japan for brash un-gentility; where best to do one’s gaming in Osaka, the the overall continuing robustness of Japanese arcades; the tradition of North American arcade gaming growing up around alcohol, and the tradition of Asian arcade gaming growing up around coffee, cigarettes, and milk tea; the Nintendo Entertainment System, known in Japan as the Famicom, and how it shaped both a decade and a generation on either side of the Pacific; the inevitable proximity of Japanese celebrities to gaming culture, whether through commercials or some stronger connection, in stark contrast to their game-averse American counterparts; his Dallas-Tokyo flight attendant childhood neighbor, and the strange but alluring cans of Coca-Cola she’d bring back from work; his first Japanese friend, whose family introduced him to their country’s gift-giving culture; Tokyo’s feeling of a “city of strangers,” versus the more personable Osaka; his trying early years of Japan, and how he recognized his own sprachgefühl while watching Battle Royale; his time in Japan’s having made him interested in his own Texas background; how he has made sure his sons learn about American culture, and how he laments their limited linguistic interaction with their American grandparents; the importance of raising children in Japan without giving them “the strange-last-name complex”; Japan’s lack of weirdness, or at least the lack of weirdness you perceive if you take the time to ground your observations of it, including observations of or relating to arcade machines and schoolgirls, with as much non-oversimplified historical and cultural knowledge as possible.

Download the interview from Notebook on Cities and Culture’s feed or on iTunes.

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