MRC goes Japan again... Which is not entirely true. Actually I was the only one to have been to Japan again and actually my visit had little or nothing to do with MSX. How disappointing, one may say. But it's not, since it seems to be so that if you are an MSX user and you go to Japan, there's little chance of not hitting upon MSX somewhere. So wasn't there for me.

Before starting off about MSX in Japan and the like, let me first give a short introduction. First of all: who am I? In a nutshell: I am a webmaster of the MSX Resource Center since 2003, have actively used the MSX for quite some time and I have studied Japanese Language and Culture at Leiden University. If you want to know more, click here. But, what was I going to do in Japan? That's not too difficult as well: I went to visit my beloved girlfriend. Not that she is Japanese, she is in fact as Dutch as I am, but she studies Japanese as well and she currently studies Japanese Language and Politics at Saitama University. So much for the introductory.

I stayed in Japan for 24 days, of which most of them had little to do with MSX. But as I stated before, there were some MSX related adventures as well and to keep your attention I will mainly focus on those things. Don't see a point in sharing the other parts of my private life on a website and I assume you wouldn't be interested anyway.

First of all: Akihabara. I guess this word has the same impact on an MSX user as saying 'sex' to someone else. Anyway, as Saitama is located quite near Tokyo, there have been many occasions for me to visit the part of Tokyo called Akihabara (literally translated 'Field with Autumn Leaves', by the way). Little leaves to be found there, however, as Akihabara is the place to be if you're looking for shops offering (home) electronics, new as well as second hand. And of course there are quite a lot shops offering old stuff and - since this is Japan - MSX stuff.

I had been to Akihabara before, but I didn't remember the exact location of the shops where MSX stuff was still sold. Therefore, I asked Bernard Lamers - who is close to becoming a Tokyoite pur sang - if he wanted to show me around one more time. He agreed and gave me the extended tour.

There are about five shops left where MSX software can still be found, but only two of them have a more extended collection left. The other three offer only one or two shelves with mainly incomplete cartridges and stuff nobody is really interested in. The two that still do have a nice collection are both shops called Maxload. One of them has two shelves with some nice offers and the other one has about five or six shelves with only MSX soft. I was surprised to see that one of the most expensive titles was Super Mirai, which had to cost about 90 Euro. The game is of little value in Europe, as far as I know. Metal Gear is also still very expensive, even a boxless cartridge costing about 60 Euro. Micro Cabin and Falcom software are generally not too expensive. Compile software is quite rare, except for Disc Stations, that is.

Generally spoken, it's still very well possible to really enjoy MSX shopping in Akihabara, but there are clearly less titles available than a couple of years ago. One shop that used to have quite an impressive collection even quit the sales of MSX software completely. At Sofmap there used to be quite a collection as well, but nothing more than a shelf containing some old MSX1 games nobody fancies is to be found there. At another shop, called Trader, an acceptable collection is still to be found and the last shop, simply stating 'retro games' instead of a shop name (in Japanese, that is), only offers mainstream titles for prices that are way too high.

I personally didn't buy anything for myself. Some friends of mine had asked to look for certain titles which I bought for them. There were some other things that I did buy for myself, however. These were, although MSX related, Windows games. I found remakes of three MSX games that looked very nice and weren't too expensive, so I decided to buy them. One is a remake of Hydlide 1 (simply called Hydlide), one is a remake of Sorcerian (called Sorcerian Forever and also containing a nice soundtrack CD and a CD with artwork) and one is a remake of Romancia (containing a hard cover booklet with nice illustrations). And of course there was one specific MSX related game I really had to have: Ys 6, The Ark of Napishtim. I didn't have to buy this game myself, though, as my girlfriend knew about this not so secret desire and surprised me with a copy. As you can all imagine, I have the sweetest girlfriend one can wish for. I plan to write a review of this game for MRC as soon as I have played enough. What was clearly visible, was that Ys 6 was quite an important Windows release, as the game was widely promoted in many software shops.

By the way, even if you didn't know much about the MSX revival, the MSX revival was already quite clearly visible (not only in Akihabara, by the way). There was one bookshop I visited together with my girlfriend where huge posters announced the appearance of MSX Magazine 2. Quite an odd experience, to walk in a bookstore and see large posters with the MSX logo on it. And of course, MSX Magazine 1 as well as 2 were offered in the larger bookstores. I have reason to believe that MSX Magazine sold quite well in Japan and it was clearly visible that money was spent to give MSX Magazine the attention it deserves.

Apart from MSX Magazine, there were many games sold in gamestores with the EGG logo on it. As you probably know, EGG doesn't only sell MSX titles and EGG doesn't only sell downloadable games. Now it became clear that EGG also doesn't only sell games - I even found a scale model of a character straight from the game Relics. Of course the game itself was available as well, so was the new Daiva, by the way. And of course the CD containing Ys 1 to 5, which was enclosed in the premium package of Ys 6, was taken care of by Project EGG.

There was something else that had changed since my last visit to Akihabara, which has little to do with MSX, by the way. When I was in Akihabara a couple of years ago, I used to see the most phantastic collections of used MSX software, which was still quite impressive back then. There were offered so many games, that I had to decide which one I would buy and which one I wouldn't. As you can imagine, this is quite a hard decision that can only be made well by walking up and down between the stores smoking several cigarettes. But clearly, as the collection of used MSX software declined, the need to smoke declined as well, since it is now prohibited to smoke a cigarette when walking on the streets of Akihabara! Not only Akihabara, that is, it is prohibited to smoke in the entire Chiyoda-ku, the center of Tokyo! 'Let's quit smoking while walking'. If you want to smoke a cigarette, you can go to rooms especially designed for that purpose. It is often said that Japanese don't know sarcasm, but the name of such a room proves this is all but true: they call it 'Smokers' Style'. This is a not so large room containing nothing but ashtrays and smoking people. If this is 'smoker's style', I don't know if I can still be called a 'smoker', because it is surely not my style. Things really change when you are away for a year and a half…

So much for Akihabara. Together with my girlfriend I went to Osaka as well. I have been very often to Osaka and also to the part called Nihonbashi, better known by MSX users as 'Den Den Town'. There used to be a shop here offering a quite impressive collection of MSX software, called Monkichi. But… Monkichi had vanished! Instead, there was now a shop offering pornographic material. And with the disappearance of Monkichi, there was little MSX stuff left to be found in Den Den Town. I found one shelf in a Sofmap shop offering about ten MSX games, and that was it!

There was, however, one other shop that offered interesting material. These were not MSX games, but used old game soundtrack CD's, many of them being MSX related. I saw several Snatcher soundtracks I have never seen before (one of them costing about 90 Euro). I also found two soundtrack CD's I had been looking for: Xak and Xak 2/Fray. As most of these CD's, they were quite expensive (about 45 Euro each), but since I had been looking for those for quite some time, I decided to buy them nevertheless.

Apart from the shops, I had meetings with several Japanese MSX related people, one of whom was mr. Yokoi of MSX Association. He provided me with an extensive demonstration of the MSX Game Reader, which was quite an interesting piece of technology. At the moment he gave me the demonstration, most cartridges (both MSX1 and MSX2) already worked. It was somewhat queer to see an MSX cartridge running in an emulator, but it is an interesting device anyway.

I also visited one of the offices of Aiky (fomer Compile) to do some talking about Guru Logic. There's not much I can say about this visit in a report like this, except for the fact that this was a very impressive office. Probably every Compile game ever released was present in a nice display type closet and many MSX games of which I had never seen the original package went through my hands. As if this weren't enough, mr. Niitani of Aiky also had a Puyo made from massive crystal on his desk, accompanied by a wooden handcrafted (or so it looked) Carbuncle. And there were many more real nice Compile gadgets, I even saw a Seiko watch with a Carbuncle on its dial.

To go in short, my trip to Japan was in every possible way a wonderful one and it was interesting to check the state of MSX appearance here and there. Check the photos to see the things words can't say for yourself. And to conclude with an advice: have a little faith in the MSX revival.