To the south of downtown Kumamoto, beyond the stolid office buildings, garish Louis vuitton boutiques, and throngs of movers and shakers, stands the mighty Round 1, an amusement center of epic proportions. Actually, “amusement center” doesn’t really do it justice; that would be akin to calling an aircraft carrier just a “boat.” Still, similar to an aircraft carrier, Round 1 is armed to the teeth, but instead of weapons of mass destruction its arsenal consists of an amazing array of ways to delight the mind, body, and if popular nerd wisdom is to be believed, even the soul.


Here’s the way it works: you pay 1500 yen (about $12 US) for three hours of unlimited play. You read that right—unlimited play! And not just on some dusty old arcade games like the ones you find in movie theaters. No sir, Round 1 has it all: a fleet of current arcade games, a mechanical bull, a bowling alley, ping-pong tables, light gun games, pool tables, a shooting range, a fishing pond (with live fish!), and a skating rink that converts into a track for mini motor bike racing. For the sportier types there’s basketball, (real) tennis, soccer, Japanese archery, and a kick boxing-themed punching bag complete with live digital commentary! All of this for only 12 bucks! Amazing is the word that comes to mind, no?


Aside from hitting the arcade games, I had great deal of fun acting out my fantasies of becoming a deadly sniper—although I never really hit anywhere near the center of the target—acting out my other fantasy of becoming a Spanish bullfighter; and displaying my “breathtaking” tennis skills. The mini motorbike racing was also a blast, but I couldn’t help but feel silly once a crowd of smirking Japanese gathered around the track. They’re just jealous because their sense of shame and self-respect—two things I’ve long since rid myself of—keep them from acting like immature teenagers. Well, too bad for them!


Truly a godsend, this Round 1. Once I become a multi, multi billionaire, I plan to build one in my backyard…well, maybe not. I mean, look how that turned out for Michael Jackson.