Culture | Feeling nostalgic for Kowloon's Walled City? Head to Kawasaki
  • The entrance gives you a hint of what to expect on the inside. Photo: Said Karlsson
    The entrance gives you a hint of what to expect on the inside. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • How was life in Kowloon's Walled City? This Japanese replica offers a glimpse. Photo: Said Karlsson
    How was life in Kowloon's Walled City? This Japanese replica offers a glimpse. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • The inside of this game centre is unlike any other in Tokyo. Photo: Said Karlsson
    The inside of this game centre is unlike any other in Tokyo. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Signboards of a butcher stall and clinic that specialised in treating piles hang in the interior. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Signboards of a butcher stall and clinic that specialised in treating piles hang in the interior. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • The attention to detail is impressive. Notice that old CRT TV in the apartment...? Photo: Said Karlsson
    The attention to detail is impressive. Notice that old CRT TV in the apartment...? Photo: Said Karlsson
  • …Or the sexy underwear hanging to dry next to the balcony below? Photo: Said Karlsson
    …Or the sexy underwear hanging to dry next to the balcony below? Photo: Said Karlsson
  • We’re not sure if the signs are originals dating back from the late 20th century, or if they are just faithful reproductions. Photo: Said Karlsson
    We’re not sure if the signs are originals dating back from the late 20th century, or if they are just faithful reproductions. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Many of the items used to decorate the interiors were imported from Hong Kong by the architect. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Many of the items used to decorate the interiors were imported from Hong Kong by the architect. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • More interiors imported from Hong Kong.  Photo: Said Karlsson
    More interiors imported from Hong Kong. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • The games however, are very clean and well maintained. Photo: Said Karlsson
    The games however, are very clean and well maintained. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Besides all the latest arcade games, Anata no Warehouse also has a section dedicated to retro games. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Besides all the latest arcade games, Anata no Warehouse also has a section dedicated to retro games. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Retro games such as these. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Retro games such as these. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Some of these games date back to the time when the Kowloon Walled City still existed. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Some of these games date back to the time when the Kowloon Walled City still existed. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Despite the gritty ambience, the toilets themselves are actually spotlessly clean. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Despite the gritty ambience, the toilets themselves are actually spotlessly clean. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • These chickens however, are made out of plastic. Photo: Said Karlsson
    These chickens however, are made out of plastic. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • We’re not sure if this is a nod to the shady activities that took place within the Kowloon Walled City, or if it’s just supposed to depict one of the residents taking a nap. Photo: Said Karlsson
    We’re not sure if this is a nod to the shady activities that took place within the Kowloon Walled City, or if it’s just supposed to depict one of the residents taking a nap. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • Upon leaving the premises, you have to pass through this creepy tunnel. Photo: Said Karlsson
    Upon leaving the premises, you have to pass through this creepy tunnel. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • ..to the exit. Photo: Said Karlsson
    ..to the exit. Photo: Said Karlsson
  • The exterior too, is quite eye catching, especially compared to the surrounding apartment blocks and office buildings. Photo: Said Karlsson
    The exterior too, is quite eye catching, especially compared to the surrounding apartment blocks and office buildings. Photo: Said Karlsson

Feeling nostalgic for Kowloon’s Walled City? Head to Kawasaki

Kowloon's infamous Walled City has been replicated inside a video-game warehouse in Kawasaki, Japan.

January 6, 2017 9:33 AM (UTC+8)

Few people dared to enter the Walled City in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district. As a haven for gangs, drugs and brothels, with its dark alleyways and damp, cramped walkup buildings, it was Hong Kong’s most notorious slum.

The Walled City was technically an ungoverned Chinese territory under British rule, and at its peak home to about 35,000 people. While both governments turned a blind eye to the three-acre enclave – the most densely populated place on earth – it grew to become a virtually lawless labyrinth where poor families lived next door to opium parlors, whorehouses and gambling dens run by the triad syndicates.

Although it was torn down by the Hong Kong government in 1993 and replaced by a park, the Walled City’s mystique still keeps people intrigued. Including people in Japan, where a replica ohas been created inside a Kawasaki warehouse, grime and all, but no opium.

Anata no Warehouse, a few minutes walk from Kawasaki Station, is the creation of a Japanese games company that decided the Walled City would make the perfect backdrop to a video-game arcade. Tokyo-based photographer Said Karlsson shot images from outside and inside the game center, which spans four floors, and has all the latest titles, a dedicated retro game corner and a floor with darts and billiards.

Most of Tokyo’s hundreds of game centers are pretty bland when it comes to interior design. Anata no Warehouse is the notable exception, where the gritty ambiance of the Kowloon Walled City has been faithfully recreated.

The Wall Street Journal made a short documentary about the Walled City. For the best Hong Kong movie to capture the enclave’s unique history, dig out director Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law, a 1984 classic about a hapless gang of robbers from China.

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