Then there was that time I showed up at Nintendo.

It was July, 2006. My best friend lives in the Portland, Oregon area, and at that time in my life, I had this bug to leave my home of Appleton, Wisconsin. I was a few years into my tattoo career, and I wanted to take it to another level, and I really liked the Portland area and was seriously considering making the move out there to change my scenery, be near my friend, and expand my work. I also had a friend who lived in Seattle, Washington, and I thought I would also make a trip up there to see her. Of course, I also knew that Nintendo of America’s headquarters was in Redmond, Washington, not far from Seattle. I knew they had a small visitor center, so I thought since I was renting a car for the two weeks I was out there, I would be remiss not to take the opportunity for a little side-trip to check it out. This was gonna be a great 2-week adventure in the Pacific Northwest!

So it went; I spent 2 weeks hanging around Portland, visiting tattoo shops with my portfolio, looking for a job. Of course, I also spent time hanging out with my friends, exploring Portland (I had been there a few times before already, but not with my own vehicle), going to Ground Kontrol arcade (of course!), and enjoying myself.

Three days out of the two weeks were spent with my friend in Seattle, and one afternoon we took a drive to Redmond to see what was there.

After making it to the destination on my printed map (this was pre-GPS navigation), surroundes by trees, the Nintendo building materialized — to my surprise, directly across the street from Microsoft.

Driving around a bit, I happened across the famous Pikachu VW Beetle, just parked in the lot.

We eventually found the visitors’ center, the only publicly-accessible entrance.

NOA visitors’ center entrance circa 2006

Inside, there was a small selection of merchandise for sale, such as t-shirts and game accessories, large statues of Mario and Pikachu to pose with, and a display case of Nintendo goods from the past.



Original Nintendo hanafuda cards




After taking a few pictures, I purchased a little set of pins which included Mario, Yoshi, and Samus, and a Nintendo shotglass — just because I thought it was super weird that they even had Nintendo shotglasses. The friendly woman behind the counter also gave me some free promo posters and was surprised that I had come all the way from Wisconsin.

And that was it. There wasn’t all that much to do there. It wasn’t like Shigeru Miyamoto was hanging out there, or they were demoing a game that nobody had seen before, or that you could say a secret password and they’d let you into the Treehouse. But still, it was a cool way to at least visit NOA HQ. You could still soak up a little bit of the mojo of actually being at Nintendo of America.

From all accounts I can find, the Nintendo visitors’ center is no more. Which is too bad, because people still drive out there just to see the building and take a photo with the Nintendo sign, but there’s nothing inside for the public to see. I feel very lucky that I did get to check it out when I had the chance!


…Oh, and to finish the story, I did find a tattoo shop out there that was interested in hiring me. But when I returned home, I started dating this really pretty girl, who is still very glad I decided not to move to Portland, because she’s now my wife.