An introduction to EDAMAME Arcade Channel

Drones assaults on arcades, talking life with the father of FINAL FANTASY and… farming? Welcome to the wonderful world of EDAMAME Arcade Channel.
By Duncan Heaney

You might already be familiar with EDAMAME Arcade Channel. If you’re not, then it’s our pleasure to introduce you.

Started back in 2017, it’s a YouTube channel that looks at all aspects of the gaming world, both in and out of Japan - the arcade scene, console games, big shows like E3, tabletop games and more.

It also features exclusive interviews with some of the biggest names in gaming, including FINAL FANTASY creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu.

The whole thing is presided over by two passionate gamers: Tom Lee and Kabukin. We sat down with the duo at Gamescom 2019 to find out more about joys of EDAMAME.

Hi guys. In your own words, what is EDAMAME Arcade Channel?

Tom: We started two years ago as an arcade channel - looking to promote arcades and arcade communities in Japan. We branched out since then to games shows, Japanese gaming, Japanese culture as well. And, you know, we wanted to show the world that gaming is part of life!

Kabukin: We were recruited by Square Enix CEO Matsuda-San - he wanted to promote gaming and gaming culture - not just in Japan, but also globally.

Tom: Yeah, I think - and this kind of a broad statement - there are currently a lot of very core gaming channels out there - creators who focus on very specific games. But as EDAMAME, but we wanted to take a lighter approach - make stuff that’s informative, and fun at the same time.

Kabukin: So, yeah, we do creative things like fly a drone inside an arcade (starts to laugh).

Tom: That… didn’t go very well.

That sounds potentially expensive...

Tom: We burnt a hole in the floor.

Kabukin: It was one of the first our first shootings. We had a drone and flew it inside the arcade, but it crashed into the wall!

Tom: And then it crashed into one of the arcade machines and fell on the floor and burnt a hole in the plastic tiling.

So eventually you changed focus from arcades?

Tom: When we started, we really did want to promote a lot of arcade games, but what we found were that arcade gaming, console gaming… well, all gaming really - it all links together. In that way we sort of branched out organically.

Kabukin: So while we started out as an arcade channel, we do so much more now. We were farming last month!

Tom: Yeah, we planted some edamame, which is you know, soybeans. So we actually planted 1,500 soybean plants. So we went from arcades to gaming to farming! It’s a very wide spectrum of things that we’re doing (laughs).

While we’re on the subject of edamame, why the name EDAMAME Arcade Channel?

Kabukin: Well, I heard it’s one of Matsuda-san’s favourite foods (laughs).

But in Japan, you eat edamame at any time, and once you’ve had one, you have two and three and more. You don’t just stop with one edamame.

Tom: So it ties together nicely. It’s Matsuda-san’s favorite food and we hope that if you watch one video, you’ll want to watch another.

How did you get involved with EDAMAME Arcade Channel?

Tom: I got a message on Twitter, from someone at Square Enix, saying ‘we’re looking for people who speak both English and Japanese’ to work on this new project - would you be interested?’

And to be honest, I thought it was a fake message! Because I love FINAL FANTASY VII - it’s my favorite game ever - so when I got a message saying it was from Square Enix I was, like, “this has got to be a lie!”

So I let it sit for about 24 hours, and then I replied. And it wasn’t a lie!

How did the two of you start working together?

Kabukin: Hmm… we started working together when Edamame channel started.

Tom: Before Edamame started, we were in contact with each other - we’d known each other for a while.

So when we found out about this project, I said: do you want to jump in with me and try this out? And now we see each other, what, four times a week?

Kabukin: We’re the same age, so we grew up with the same games. So we have a lot of things in common that let us work well together.

Tom: And we each bring different skills to the table. For example, Kabukin is very musically-talented, and I am… am not (laughs). But then I play fighting games, which he doesn’t.

Kabukin: But we do play games together - we’re both playing FINAL FANTASY TRADING CARD GAME and FINAL FANTASY XIV Online at the moment!

So what were you doing before EDAMAME Arcade Channel started? How did you get to this point?

Tom: I’ve been living in Japan for twelve years now. I’ve sort of been doing TV, radio, internet-based programming as well.

At the time that EDAMAME was starting, I was working a lot in the pachinko industry, which is a very unique part of Japanese culture. It’s another part of gaming really. So I guess I was a YouTuber to some degree.

Kabukin: I grew up in Japan and the United States. And Singapore. So I’ve been around.

My first career, I was playing in a band, so I was living as a musician. I transitioned to making videos on YouTube around four years ago. That’s when I started this makeup.

What is the reason for the makeup?

Kabukin: I don’t really know why (laughs). I wanted to stand out.

Tom: At the time, YouTube was picking up, and there were a lot of YouTubers - so the facepaint really did make you stand out!

Kabukin: I wanted to reach a wide audience and talk to lots of different people. And now we’re in Germany - so I guess it worked!

You’ve had some truly amazing people on EDAMAME Arcade Channel - FINAL FANTASY creator Sakaguchi-san, FINAL FANTASY VII’s Kitase-san, and FINAL FANTASY XIV Online’s Yoshida-san... What’s the most memorable interview?

Kabukin: FINAL FANTASY composer Nobuo Uematsu san - no question.

We did a video where I showed Uematsu-san my own covers of his music. I mean, meeting him made me nervous, but to also show him my music? That’s just about the most daunting thing I’ve ever done.

But he was such a nice guy!

Tom: We’ve met him, what, five or six times now? Just a couple of weeks ago we met Sakaguchi-san and Uematsu-san together and we all had drinks, and food and just.. chatted about life for about four hours.

Kabukin: It’s just a dream come true.. I mean…

Tom: There aren’t any words to describe that experience.

Are there any others that stand out?

Tom: Meeting [FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Producer) Yoshinori Kitase was a huge one for me.

There was a big collaboration with FINAL FANTASY VII on one of the train lines in Japan, and we had an opportunity to do a Q&A.

I think there were about 15 questions, but there were two or three that were cut from the interview. I heard the answer, and Kabukin heard the answer… but we’re not allowed to say! But moments like that, growing up loving a game like that and then getting secret answers from one of the creators! It’s emotional!

What are some of the most memorable things you’ve experienced as EDAMAME Arcade Channel?

Tom: Growing plants! This is the second year we’ve planted edamame plants. Last year we planted 500 edamame plants, this year we did 1,500.

When you eat food, you don’t know realise how hard it is to grow - what’s involved in making it. So actually harvesting and eating the food we’ve planted is an amazing growing experience. Pun intended!

Kabukin: There was one project - the Starwing Paradox project.

It’s an arcade game and we got to see how it made from scratch. Not just that, we also got to some of the game’s sound effects ourselves.

Tom: We used a knife, and axe, a machine gun bullet box to make the sound of the wings of this robot opening!

Kabukin: So not only did we see how that part of the game was made, we got to actually be involved in making it!

If you had to showcase just one video that you think represents the best of EDAMAME Arcade Channel, what would it be and why?

Tom: The interview with Uematsu-san, Sakaguchi-san, Kitase-san in Taiwan is a good starting point. It shows that we’re gamers, and we get to talk to these legends just as people.

There’s often a barrier between developers and gamers - so its good to see them interacting so openly.

Kabukin: For me, it would be my video with Uematsu-san. It was just… epic.

Finally, what message would you give to people who are watching your videos for the first time?

Kabukin: Have fun in life!

Tom: Laugh with us, laugh at us. Also try some edamame.

Kabukin: Exactly!

Thanks to Tom and Kabukin for their time.

You can follow EDAMAME Arcade Channel on YouTube. Make sure you subscribe to watch all their videos from E3, Gamescom and beyond.