Header image courtesy of 美國冒險樂園 Jumpin Gym U.S.A (via Facebook)
When it comes to amusement parks and arcades, you might think of Hong Kong Disneyland or shops lined with game machines that chime loud and clear when you score or win a game. For those who grew up in Hong Kong, you might be more familiar with Ocean Park, but there’s one indoor amusement park all Hongkongers would know about and have fond memories of. Join us as we take you through the history of Jumpin Gym USA, the first indoor amusement park in town, and what it means to people in Hong Kong.
Although the official name of the indoor amusement park is Jumpin Gym USA in English, it is commonly referred to as just “Jumpin Gym.” Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong know Jumpin Gym by a different name: 美國冒險樂園 (“USA Adventure Playground”) but it is more commonly known as 冒險樂園 (“adventure playground”).
Established in 1994, the first Jumpin Gym was located in Sheung Shui in the New Territories. The attraction and significance of the Jumpin Gym concept are mainly attributed to its break away from traditional models of amusement parks in the city. Unlike Ocean Park, which had been established for almost 20 years when the first Jumpin Gym appeared, the new park concept was going to take all the fun indoors.
One of the main missions of Jumpin Gym was to provide the public with entertainment options that are “high value” at a “low price.” When the first Jumpin Gym was opened in Sheung Shui, the indoor establishment quickly became the cheaper option out of all the amusement parks on offer in Hong Kong. At the time, an entry ticket for Ocean Park started at $50. Being an indoor entertainment park, Jumpin Gym required no entry fee. To operate one of the many game machines in the store, all you had to do was purchase game tokens, sold at $2 each. They remain the same price to this day.
Of course, Jumpin Gym has seen its fair share of inflation, and some machines today require as many as 13 tokens for one game. At the beginning of Jumpin Gym’s legacy, however, you could use a machine for as low as two tokens! It was definitely the cheaper option for many families in Hong Kong at the time, and one of the reasons why Jumpin Gym was such a success. To date, the entertainment chain has opened 34 branches across the city, situated in densely populated residential areas and within frequently visited shopping malls, making Jumpin Gym the largest indoor entertainment business in Hong Kong.
So, what games can you play in Jumpin Gym? From their varied selection, here are some of our top favourites.
The claw machine is every child’s favourite, and Jumpin Gym knows it. Stocked with adorable plushies of the latest cartoon series or anime, claw machines cater to all ages with their tempting yet almost-impossible-to-obtain prizes.
Coin pusher machines might be mundane in their gameplay, but the spectacle it contributes to at every Jumpin Gym in town is unforgettable. Known to dispense large amounts of tickets with as little as a single token, we all remember what it was like walking past coin pushers sat atop their high stools surrounded by piles upon piles of tickets about their feet and wondering how many prizes we can redeem with those tickets.
Although coming in a little later in Jumpin Gym’s history, the ball pit is another major site where unforgettable memories are made. Colourful and vibrant plastic balls filled the pit to the brim, and if the ground gets too crowded with kids, you can always take a walk up the matted slopes and tunnels and make your way back down through the slide.
For many of us, Jumpin Gym was the first place we ever saw an air hockey table. We all remember the popularity of the machine, especially during after-school hours when uniformed persons would crowd around the table cheering their friends on at a game. When these tables got an upgrade, the older, smaller ones for two players with one putt were always placed alongside the newer, bigger table for four players and an almost infinite number of putts, and you can always see kids fighting for the newer table to play on.
Of course, the iconic Lucky Rainbow is on our list of favourites. Not only can you win prizes by simply aiming and throwing a coin onto the table to land squarely within a rainbow’s stripe, but the prizes are also attractive and extremely desirable to players of all ages.
One of the best things for younger players is that when you’re shorter or just as tall as the prize counters surrounding the Lucky Rainbow table, your parents are allowed to lift you up onto the counter where the best spots to score are. No doubt the vantage point made little difference, as we were young and hand-eye coordination was something we still had to improve on, but standing on the price counter and feeling like we could win every throw was something we would always remember.
By far the most popular machine has to be the basketball hoop. Simple and easy to play, you simply shoot at a moving hoop! Many basketball players in school opt to play for tickets at these machines to redeem a prize or simply to practice their shooting skills.
Other games worth mentioning include the Humpty Dumpty shooting game, where you get to push Humpty Dumptys off the wall by throwing a ball at them; the Doraemon racing game, where you get a simulated driving experience navigating the roads with the popular Japanese anime character; and the clown teeth shooting game, where you get to shoot the teeth of a clown off with a gun.
Jumpin Gym is a fun playground for children, given its variety of games and activities, and it is hard to get bored once you enter the vibrant wonderland. If you ask any Hongkongers though, Jumpin Gym is a place filled with fond memories—of weekends with parents and siblings playing at the arcade, of afternoons spent with friends after school as you forget about the stress of studies for a while, of going on dates with your partner, maybe even winning a prize from the claw machine as a gift to them.
Jumpin Gym may just be an indoor arcade on the surface, but it is also a place that holds a special place in our childhoods, a spot for many to relive the happier moments of their youth, and a place to make more memories down the line with their loved ones.