Take a Break From Tokyo’s Hustle and Bustle at this Gaming Cafe

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The board game community is full of amazing people, and we love to tell stories about them, whether it’s about veterans who love games, or friendly local gaming stores that make a difference in their community. Here’s one person whose story of passion is one that inspires us.

Like other great cities of the world, Tokyo can overload the senses for the first-time visitor. Explore the city and you’ll find lots of one-of-a-kind experiences, from dog cafes to karoake bars to hole-in-the-wall ramen joints to one of the last remaining Tower Records on the planet.

Dear Spiele offers a respite from all of the hustle and bustle. Tucked away in the upper half of a non-descript building, this board game cafe is home to several hundred games to play for a small hourly fee and guests can enjoy drinks and light snacks while they roll dice, draw cards, and push cubes.


Owner Masashi Kawaguchi recalls the date when the wheels were set in motion that eventually led him to open Dear Spiele: March 11, 2011.

It’s a date etched into the country’s collective consciousness: the day when the Tohoku earthquake struck, with the resulting tsunami leaving death and destruction in its wake. “We lived without using electricity as much as possible,” Kawaguchi recalled. “My hobby was playing video games, but I started playing board games.”

First among these games was Bluff. Kawaguchi played it at a cafe during the days when he couldn’t return home due to the devastation caused by the disaster. It was during this time when he realized that he was unsatisfied as an office worker.

“The trains in Tokyo are too crowded,” he said. “I didn’t want to take that train to the office any longer.”

Kawaguchi immersed himself in the hobby, playing games every chance he could while organizing regular gaming meetups. Today he still enjoys video games, but one of his favorite games is the classic worker placement game Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar.

Tzolk’in is a memorable game because it was one that I bought when I first went to Essen,” he said. “The content of the game is very dense and it requires a lot of planning.”

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Four years later Kawaguchi opened Dear Spiele, offering gamers a place to forget about the outside world for a while and enjoy tabletop games with others. Since Dear Spiele has been open it’s expanded into selling board games as well as publishing its own board game, Privacy. It has also imported games such as Hands to sell wholesale to other stores in Japan.

“Our wish is for more games to be played in Japan,” he said. “We want to continue to discover a lot of the exciting games overseas and deliver that fun here.”

Dear Spiele is located at 4-9-1, Higashinakano Nakano-ku, Tokyo, Japan.  You can visit their Facebook page for more info.

Is there someone in your community whose love of games is making the world a better place? Tell us about them in the comments!


Image Credits: Dear Spiele

Editor’s note: the interview was conducted with the help of Google Translate. 

Ruel Gaviola is a writer based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, Star Wars, and date nights with his wife. He reviews games and reports news for iSlaytheDragon and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog here.

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