Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I just don't get it

Today I went to Oita and on the way drove past this Pachinko parlor and it made me scratch my head yet again. I just don't understand the attraction of pachinko! For anyone who doesn't know, pachinko is basically a form of slot machines where you use little silver balls and watch them go around and around the machines and usually end up losing big money, but can sometimes win. I have had some fun with slot machines so don't really have a problem with playing occasionally, but in Japan it seems like a huge social problem. When I drove past this pachinko parlor it was 9:30am. It doesn't open until 10:00am, but as you can see from the photo (if you look carefully!) there was already a huge line of people waiting outside. The parlor closes at 10:00pm and the majority of those lined up at 9:30am would be coming out at 10pm. Inside the parlors are extremely brightly lit, extremely noisy and extremely smokey. Not exactly a wonderful environment to be in all day!
What really confuses me though is that in Japan gambling is illegal (with the exception of public sports - horse, bicycle, boat and motorbike racing, the lottery and soccer league betting). Casino's are illegal and no matter how you look at it pachinko should fall into the same category - but they get around it by exchanging any "winning balls" you have for tokens or small prizes which you take outside to a small booth which is officially not connected with the pachinko parlor and exchange it for cash. Therefore you are not actually winning any cash at the pachinko parlor. Considering how many pachinko parlors there are in Japan and how many social problems there are associated with the parlors (there are deaths annually where kids have been left in the car in the summer while their parents go and play etc.) you would think the police would think a little more carefully about them, but the parlor in the picture is literally across the road from a big police station and I'm guessing that half the police force go over the road in their lunch break or as soon as they have finished work.
Enough ranting... if you want any more information about pachinko wikipedia has detailed descriptions of how to play, the history etc.


  1. Those little silver balls have caused 'social problems' in our house a couple of times. But none lately - or otherwise hub is just getting good at hiding it!!

  2. I don't understand the attraction of Pachinko either. I am just so glad that my husband has no interest in them. In the 3 and bit years I have been in Japan I have yet to set foot inside a pachinko parlour and honestly don't think I ever will. Definitely not my cup of tea!!

  3. I can never understand the lines either. Went in one once as I told my friend I'd never been and she walked me in one door and out the other. That was enough! The noise!!! But for all their ills they keep me in chocolate, FIL is a big player and apparently they only exchange gifts over a certain value for money so he brings back the 'change' in chocolate. So GW, get any unexplained chocolate you should start asking questions!

  4. I don't get it either. Smokey, loud, flashing lights. If I want a migraine I'll stay home with the kids, thanks!

  5. The lines are because the parlor tweaks the machine on certain days so that people win more. They don't keep it a secret as to when this happens either.

    At least this is my understanding, something I have gleaned from my experiences where at the men's drinking party after every local function conversation inevitably includes a looooong, boooooring, and in-depth analyses of which machine puts out when and how to correctly twist your wrist.

    I have tried it twice. Lost 2,000 yen and had no fun. I would gladly forfeit 5,000 yen for a fun night of poker or blackjack, or something that offers some kind of mental stimulation.

  6. At first I thought that was a shot of Ikea!

  7. keppechan7:39 PM