How to Buy Retro Japanese Games

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For retro week, I wanted to share my experiences with buying retro Japanese games. Since I have extensive experience living in Japan, I believe I can provide invaluable tips for those who are looking to purchase retro Japanese games. Joining me in this article is Jeneko, who runs a business that resells retro Japanese games in the United States. With the two of us, we will be able to provide tips and tricks for gamers who have made it to Japan, and for those who haven’t.

General Buying Tips:

  • Decide what and why you are collecting. Having clear goals is important. Also, limiting the amount you are willing to spend will help avoid financial problems.
  • Be patient. Deals are deals because they don’t happen all the time.
  • Shop around. Don’t buy the first copy of Chrono Trigger that you see. You are going to see it again, I promise.
  • The rarity for Japanese games and the US games are different. Harvest Moon 64 in Japan is common while the US had somewhat of a limited release.  
  • Know the market. Look online for prices. Compare prices and condition and what people have paid for in the past.
  • Check the condition. If it’s been graded, it’s going to be more expensive. If it hasn’t, then you need to decide if the price is actually worth it.

Words to Know:

非売品 – Generally a promotional item, or a version that was used for kiosks. These were generally not sold to the public.
新品 – Brand new item.
未開封  – Not opened, still factory sealed.
中古 – Used.
ジャンク – Junk. Means it does not work.
動作確認済み – The item was tested.
ノークレームノーリターン – Returns are not accepted.
– Box.
ケース – Case.
型崩れ – Losing shape (box), dented.
説明書 – Instruction manual.
ソフト – Game.
~のみ – Only ~
~付きます – Comes with~. Pay careful attention to this with systems especially. Sometimes they don’t come with AC/AV cords.
~ありません/ 無し – Doesn’t come.
~無し – Nothing.
 ~少– Little.
~中– Quite a few (literally middle).
~多い– Many.
キズ – Scratch/ damage.
汚れ – Dirt.
使用感 – Has some visible wear and tear (it’s been used).
日焼けでの変色– Sun damage.
バックアップ電池 – Internal battery.

 

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Not retro, but this shows how games/ consoles can have rankings.

Buying in Japan:

Places to Check Out:

Super Potato (スーパーポテト). – Super Potato is great for the amount of merchandise it has, but they raise the price of their products quite a bit because they are hugely popular. With Super Potato, you will be paying more. It’s definitely worth it to check out their stores, though, as they have variety and tend to have very rare games.  Specializes in games and systems.

Mandarake(まんだらけ) – Has a good selection, but recently they have been becoming more popular, and thus their prices have increased. The stores tend to be laid out similar to a museum, which is really cool. I believe they offer ratings on all their games, dividing rankings between the game itself, the box condition and manual condition. Specializes in games/ otaku merchandise/ retro Japanese goods.

Hard Off/ Book Off(ハードオフ/ブックオフ) – Generally good prices, but it’s hit or miss. Sometimes you may find an amazing deal, other times it is junk. Hard Off is generally a hardware store, so Hard Off tends to carry TVs, computers, gaming systems, and other electronics. Book Off tends to be books, but most of them do sell games. Sometimes it’s only recently released games, though, it really depends on the location. General used store.

Miraiyashoten (未来屋書店) – Generally don’t have anything, but you might get lucky. General used store in Kansai area.

In general, if you see the kanji for treasure お宝 or 買取 (which means they buy things…like a pawn shop), then it’s most likely a recycle store (リサイクルショップ). You might want to check out flea markets too, as they can have some hidden gems! Also, the ability to haggle with the person directly can be incredibly beneficial.

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N64DD at Super Potato.

Buying Outside of Japan:

Places to Check Out:

eStarLand – Headquartered in Chantilly, VA, this can be a good starting point for some Japanese titles, and the workers tend to really know their gaming facts.  Be warned, though, their prices tend to be rather steep. Their online store tends to be fairly comprehensive.

The Tech Exchange – If you live in Virginia, these guys have 3 locations and are frequently on eBay as well. The workers at each location are very knowledgeable, friendly and are willing to sometimes haggle with you over prices, which already tend to be quite decent.

Video Games New York – A great shop located in Manhattan, NYC. The workers here are superb, and their games tend to be reasonably priced.  They tend to get a number of retro titles from time to time and have an online store

Manadrake – This great line of Japanese used stores also has an in-depth selection online that ships internationally

Etsy – Often overlooked, but Etsy has expanded it’s selections to “vintage” video games and can sometimes yield a few good bargains. Their video games are under “Vintage > Toys & Games > Videogames”  

eBay & Amazon – Probably stating the obvious, but these two can be gold mines for great deals, especially for lesser known Japanese titles.Be cautious, though, as some of the postings are incredibly vague about what you’re getting and many of them are simply waiting for a sale and then go out to the retro store to actually buy it.  This process sometimes means you will get refunded a few days later, instead of getting an item.

Conventions – Conventions, especially ones for anime or video games, are an exceptional way to get the items you’ve been searching for. Many dealers are also willing to haggle or cut you a deal on larger quantity purchases.  Please remember to shop around, and never be afraid to price check. If you find a better price online, don’t be afraid to ask the vendor why it may be that there’s is of better quality or is accounting for shipping already. If a vendor is ever rude to you for double checking their wares, they aren’t worth your time.
Also, please keep in mind that the bigger the convention, often the bigger the markup in prices, but the more likely you are to find the items you’re searching for.  

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Twin Famicoms are great because you can play cartridge Famicom and Disc System games.

If you would like to know more about Jeneko, make sure to go to her Facebook page, Jeneko in Japan!

That’s all we have to share with you guys today. Are there any other important tips that we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!

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One comment

  1. In my home island Hawaii, there was a shop called “Toys N Joys”, where they sale international hobby products, but mostly Japanese stuffs. Anime figures, DVDs, anime sword replicas and military BB gun rifles, and definitely Japanese video games from used to new. I usually go there to look for used and new Japanese games, which the used ones were mostly Yugi-oh games which was irritating. I also sold some of the games there too. But sadly, after the owner got retired, the store has closed down business, so it was impossible to buy new games nor selling them out. At least there’s Book Off in Hawaii too, but its not like Japan since the items that can sell were limited to their policies, which was complicated. And there weren’t much used Japanese games there too, so only place I could rely was Amazon.co.jp instead. Ebay can be reliable but there are some sellers who can be criminals who’ll just steal money from you and won’t send the product as it was fraud. I been victimized by it one time, and called the officials to do something, but declined because they couldn’t find the seller as it’s account was deleted…so I hardly use Ebay anymore, as Amazon.co.jp is a lot more trustworthy instead. While I’m in Japan, I usually go to Book Off, Mandarake, and some shops at Akihabara. The prices are reliable so I really like it.

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