Anyone who has any interest in Japan has most likely been exposed to pachinko (パチンコ) in one form or another. Perhaps you saw it in an anime or a drama, or perhaps you ran across it in one of our earlier Tofugu posts, or perhaps you’ve already developed an incurable pachinko addiction (much like Koichi). Either way, pachinko is a pretty big thing in Japan. But how do you play this crazy game anyway? The first time I saw one, I had no idea what was going on.
A Brief Synopsis of the Game
To start off, let’s explore what this wacky game is all about in the first place. Pachinko is both a form of recreation as well as a gambling device so it’s pretty comparable to slot machines here in the West. Pretty much anywhere in Japan you’ll be able to find a pachinko parlor tucked away someplace.
Pachinko machines look kind of like a vertical pinball machine, but once you shoot the ball into the thing you have no further control over it. Once the balls are in there, you just have to rely on luck and chance that they’ll end up where you want them.
If the balls go into these desired locations, something will happen that will give you the opportunity to win more balls, usually some sort of slot machine type game that shows up on the screen in the middle of the pachinko board. The object of Pachinko is to obtain as many balls as possible, so getting good slot machine rolls is a must.
The balls you win from Pachinko can then be exchanged for prizes, which in turn are then exchanged for money. The reason for this two step process is because directly gambling on pachinko is illegal. Pachinko balls cannot be exchanged directly for money in the pachinko parlor, so the balls are exchanged for small prizes (sometimes tokens), which can then be taken to a separate establishment nearby and exchanged for money there.
No, this image has not been photoshopped.
The Japanese government estimates the annual revenue of the pachinko parlor industry to be about ¥29 trillion or so (~$378 billion). This is approximately four times the total profit of world-wide (legal) casino gambling each year which is pretty impressive if you ask me. How much of this revenue is Koichi responsible for? You don’t want to know.
How to Play Pachinko
Depending on the type of machine, there will be different areas to shoot for and different ways to win more balls. The video below will give you a decent idea of how it’s done (you can just ignore the part at the end about slot machines, unless of course you’re into that sort of thing, Koichi).
Hopefully that cleared things up a bit for you. For a great visual guide on how to play (more pictures, yay!) you can check out this handy guide from Pachinko-Play.com.
More Pretty Lights and Bright Colors
Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable which keeps
Koichi pachinko addicts from getting bored with them. There’s always some new video game or anime coming out that can be used for a pachinko machine theme. Some of the modern designs and themes are pretty cool. Just take a gander at some of the videos below to get a better feel for the atmosphere of pachinko.
This is more or less what’s it’s like entering every pachinko parlor during peak hours. It is loud. With all those pachinko balls rattling around and the noises from the machines, it’s a surprise more pachinko addicts don’t go deaf in both ears.
And here’s some more random shots of pachinko parlors for you to check out. I only went to one pachinko parlor in Japan when I was there and it didn’t take me too long to lose ¥1,000 worth of balls. Koichi has played more games than I have, but then again he does have a *cough* gambling problem *cough cough*
Like I said, many pachinko machines have some sort of theme, like a video game or an anime. This one is Lupin the 3rd themed. The one I played on in Japan just had some generic ocean theme with fish, seashells, and mermaids.
As you can see, pachinko machines certainly have come a long way. This machine is from the 1940s and it’s certainly a far cry from the machines of today with all their bells and whistles. Oh what a hard life Japanese pachinko addicts must have lived back then.
And just because I know some of you out there are wondering, this is how they count all those pachinko balls up when you go to obtain your prizes. Pretty speedy, no?
But of course, how can we forget the pachinko commercials? Some of these pachinko commercials are, uh, pretty weird. But don’t take my word for it, just see for yourself.
Some of you may remember the above dude from one of our earlier posts about One-Joke Wonders. This is Kojima Yoshio, and that’s just how he do.
And of course, no pachinko post would be complete without including the ones featuring our dear and beloved Nicolas Cage. Please enjoy.
So tell me, have any of you had the opportunity to play pachinko? Did you win anything? Have any protips for the rest of us (or desire protips from Koichi)? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Saturday Timewaster is a weekly post that features Japanese videos, music, images, or games that will certainly waste your time (some weeks more than others). We hope you enjoy!