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Airman 1st Class Kevin Maloney at Misawa Air Base, Japan, checks out a new virtual reality video game at the Mokuteki Community Center on Thursday. The center received $1.25 million for new gaming equipment and overall renovations. It closed Feb. 9 and was to reopen Friday morning.
Airman 1st Class Kevin Maloney at Misawa Air Base, Japan, checks out a new virtual reality video game at the Mokuteki Community Center on Thursday. The center received $1.25 million for new gaming equipment and overall renovations. It closed Feb. 9 and was to reopen Friday morning. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Kevin Maloney at Misawa Air Base, Japan, checks out a new virtual reality video game at the Mokuteki Community Center on Thursday. The center received $1.25 million for new gaming equipment and overall renovations. It closed Feb. 9 and was to reopen Friday morning.
Airman 1st Class Kevin Maloney at Misawa Air Base, Japan, checks out a new virtual reality video game at the Mokuteki Community Center on Thursday. The center received $1.25 million for new gaming equipment and overall renovations. It closed Feb. 9 and was to reopen Friday morning. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
The Vortex game room at Misawa Air Base's Mokuteki Community Center boasts six big-screen televisions for Playstation or Xbox video gaming.
The Vortex game room at Misawa Air Base's Mokuteki Community Center boasts six big-screen televisions for Playstation or Xbox video gaming. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Patrons here flock to the Mokuteki Community Center for Cafe Mokuteki’s humongous burgers and hot coffee drinks, but few venture upstairs, where once there were pool tables, pinball machines and empty rooms.

If you’re an amateur musician or an Xbox junkie, that may be about to change.

The cafe still is open for business, but it’s now part of a revamped community center decked out with $1.25 million in gaming devices, computers, televisions, new floors, furniture and walls.

The center was to reopen Friday after closing for renovation Feb. 9; it now offers something for almost everyone, said Daniel McBride, community center director.

“The concept was to bring the whole community into the community center,” he said.

Both floors received improvements but the upstairs underwent a stunning metamorphosis. The Vortex game room now is jazzed up with six big-screen Sony televisions and comfy chairs where patrons can hook up a PlayStation or Xbox. Four other television sets are for DVD viewing.

Nine Internet gaming computers are being installed to allow users to play video games with opponents at deployed locations, McBride said. Also available: a new virtual reality video game and dual “Need For Speed” car-racing arcade games. A few pool tables remain but with new playing surfaces.

The room is designed for single airmen and sailors, most of whom live in nearby dormitories. Visitors must be at least 18 or accompanied by an adult to use the room.

But married personnel and dependents also can come and play.

Airman 1st Class Kevin Maloney, 22, a 35th Security Forces Squadron cop, said he’ll be by “if my wife lets me.”

Maloney lives across the street from Mokuteki. He briefly checked out the center Thursday morning and appeared astounded at the changes. “I think it’s great. I like the wall units,” he said of the big-screen TVs.

The community center’s program director, Quincy Franklin, said initially, 43 new PlayStation and Xbox games will be available for sign out, some designated for teenagers, some for all ages and others for adult users.

Movie selection also will be varied. “We’ll probably start off with 30 or 40 and update every time new releases come out,” Franklin said.

All activities are free and nonalcoholic, McBride said.

Other improvements to the upstairs include:

• Goraku Conference Room: New dance floor, movie screen, a digital karaoke machine and $10,000 jukebox that downloads music from the Internet, new carpet and sofa and mood lights. Can be used for parties and meetings.

• Ongaku Music Room: Two soundproof rooms for piano classes (about 100 kids at Misawa take piano lessons) and a larger soundproof room with drums, a piano and guitar.

• “Tatami” Room: “Tatami” mats and Japanese-style wood table and chairs for classes such as Japanese tea ceremony and kimono dressing.

On the first floor, the Genki Ballroom has new carpet and stage curtains, resurfaced walls and a storage area for chairs and other accessories.

Information Ticket and Tour and Four Seasons Travel may move into a refurbished room on the first floor, McBride said. The base is awaiting funding approval for a covered-patio eating area outside the community center.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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