One night at Marufukuro, Nintendo’s hotel

When you’re Nintendo, the creator of some of the most beloved games of all time that just oozes with exhilarating innovation, wonder and creativity, you might expect that to be reflected in the building where all the magic happens. Sure, it might not have been Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or even Google’s eye-catching offices that exuded the energy of an awkward big kid, but you wouldn’t think Shigeru Miyamoto, or all the other creative minds at Nintendo EBD, would spend their day. in the company’s giant concrete block, which another developer jokingly referred to as “the place where dreams die.”

However, that oppressive exterior also gives it a strange, mystical quality that, if you think of that concrete block as a giant question block instead, is one that loyal fans would love to reach for and have a chance to learn more about the company they’re in. love.

Since my previous visit to Japan in 2019, when I attempted to make a pilgrimage to view the exterior of Nintendo’s Kyoto headquarters, there have been developments of more physical spaces that embody the history and spirit of Nintendo that members of the public can appreciate. These include specialty stores such as Tokyo, recently opened in Osaka, branches of the Nintendo Store (which already started in the US with Nintendo New York at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan), and theme parks such as Super Nintendo World, which first opened at Universal Studios in Osaka. Japan in 2021, with more scheduled to be built in the United States. Nintendo is also repurposed the former Oji Ogura Factory into a museum that will open in 2024, tentatively named Nintendo Gallery.

Now that Japan has officially reopened to tourists post-pandemic, it’s been a pleasure to visit both Super Nintendo World and Nintendo Stores, and there’s an undeniable joy in being transported into physical spaces that recreate Nintendo’s magic — though with the latter, the requirement Having a timed ticket to handle the overwhelming demand means you feel compelled to actually spend rather than just casually browse.

What the average person might not know, however, is that this building was originally home to Nintendo’s former headquarters.

But if you’re looking for another perspective on Nintendo, away from the tourist attractions that are obviously saturated with Mario memorabilia, there’s another essential place to visit, or rather, stay. Marufukuro is located in the heart of Kyoto, which outwardly looks like a boutique hotel in a quiet part of town, next to the Kamo River that runs through town. What the average person might not know, however, is that this building was originally home to Nintendo’s former headquarters. This was back when it was run by Hiroshi Yamauchi, under whose leadership the company transformed from a playing card manufacturer into the video game giant it is today.

Three massive volumes containing complete Japanese scripts for the parent trilogy, and Eric Fosquel’s previous video game, Nintendo History, Before Mario.

It’s not something that’s immediately obvious, as you won’t find signs of Mario or Zelda in the hotel’s decor and elegant room furnishings, although it still has original paintings on the outside of the building. The English board shows its former name The Nintendo Playing Card Co. ”, as well as a couple of other interesting trademark logos, one early trademark based on 19th century French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the other with the kanji ‘fuku’ 福 (meaning wealth.) inside the ‘maru’ or Marufuku circle, the name The former Nintendo used to distribute hanafuda cards. This is where the hotel draws its name, with the Japanese suffix -ro denoting its luxury status. Absolutely, it’s the most luxurious and expensive hotel I’ve ever personally stayed at.

While the point here is not to review the hotel – considering the time I spent in Japan at a hostel, I’m not sure I have discerning taste – I can tell you, yes, the bed was very comfortable and spacious. The bathroom was great, and I enjoyed getting comfortable in the bathtub when I first checked in. The great thing about paying for such an expensive hotel room is that they also offer quite a few freebies, such as electric bike rentals, which are the best way to get around Kyoto, and a well-stocked mini-bar that I decided to empty with the help of my local game developer friends at 17-bit, Founded by Nintendo game consultant Jake Kazdal.

A bookshelf with what looks like a Nintendo Switch studded in gold and another with a GameCube.

There is something particularly impressive about spending the night not only in luxury but in the same room that might have been Yamauchi’s office – or near it. By choosing to book a room located in the old building rather than the newly built annex (even though this new building was designed by famous architect Tadao Ando), I could be sure I was staying in a piece of history. These stylish nods are present throughout, including the intimate self-service bar on the third floor, which also appears to include Yamauchi’s favorite whiskey and gin (although, to my disappointment, it didn’t include any Japanese whiskey).

But the real draw is the adjacent library, called dNa. Since we’re still waiting for the Nintendo Gallery to open, this compact and stylish space is basically the closest thing we have to a Nintendo Museum. Everything was displayed immaculate, and I almost felt nervous about touching anything. But you are really free to peruse at your leisure, which I made sure to do in the morning over a cup of coffee, while fortunately no one else was around.

Replica of Light Gunpei Yokoi’s phone.

The shelves are lined with books documenting Nintendo’s history, and my highlights are three massive volumes containing complete Japanese scripts for the Mother trilogy, as well as Erik Voskuil’s bilingual Nintendo collector’s book, Before Mario, which covers the extensive history of the company’s video prequels. game products. These include Gunpei Yokoi’s Light Telephone, which has also been faithfully reproduced as one of the art exhibits. There are also hanafuda card art installations (designed by Rhizomatics, who has also collaborated with Tetsuya Mizuguchi on multiple occasions) as well as an interactive touch screen where you can examine their vintage products in 3D.

By contrast, filling the remaining spaces with actual Nintendo game consoles, such as the N64 and GameCube, felt less fanciful and more for the sake of fan service to people who might come here not feeling as if Nintendo was enough. However, since the Famicom and Super Famicom models shown are their own miniature retro console variants, I wonder if any guest had rudely borrowed them from the library to hook up to their TV in their room for a place to entertain their evening.

Hotel guest book but it has Nintendo characters Mario and Kirby, and Japanese writing attached to them.

Considering the high price for one night only (and that doesn’t include dinner and/or breakfast options), staying at Marufukuro might not necessarily be something every Nintendo fan wants to do. But given how the guest book features plenty of doodles of Nintendo characters, its history and significance are not lost on those who have made the pilgrimage to this building visible for decades only from the outside. You can also purchase the building’s signature plaque as a miniature key holder, just like the one used on every hotel room key, which also makes for a much more upscale souvenir than just a T-shirt or other plush.

There will be plenty of Nintendo Stores and Super Nintendo Worlds, but there is only one Marufukuro.


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