Japan: A Japanese Addiction - The Pachinko Slot Machine

The Dangers of Pachinko Slot Machines

Warning! Health Hazard! Enter at your own risk.

This environment is addictive, and may cause serious damage to your well-being. Upon entering here, you absolve the management of any responsibility, and accept all risks to your own health, including:

Damage to your ears from the incessant banging and clattering of metal balls upon plastic, accompanied by music played at truly deafening volumes

Damage to your lungs from prolonged inhalation of cigarette smoke

Damage to your eyes from straining to follow the passage of dozens of metal balls as they bounce furiously and unpredictably off metal pins mounted inside a glass-fronted box

Damage to your mental health from the brain numbing, moronic, lethargy

Damage to your major body muscles from lack of use through sitting motionless on a stool for hours on end

The sign above should be displayed outside of every Pachinko Hall in Japan.

How to Play Pachinko

As the automatic doors slide open, and you go inside, you see row upon row of inert figures sitting on chairs, staring motionless at the slot machine in front of them. The noise is absolutely deafening. Metal balls are being fired automatically at the rate of one every second into hundreds of identical slot machines. The balls bounce off metal pins inside, and then either fall into the LOSE pit at the bottom, or into a small WIN hole in the center. Each ball which successfully enters the WIN hole, returns five more metal balls, and also causes three one-armed-bandit-like wheels to spin, to the sound of loud electronic music and yet more noise. If three identical symbols line-up horizontally (sevens, bells, oranges or whatever), the LOSE pit at the bottom of the slot machine, through which all the metal balls eventually fall, becomes a WIN pit, and every ball which enters there, returns five more.

Soon, you have a constant stream of metal balls pouring out of the bottom of the slot machine, banging into all the other metal balls already in the plastic box below. Imagine the noise that this produces. All the time, music blasts out from the loudspeakers, and the staff shout through megaphones to inform the players of jackpot wins by other players, creating a frenzy of gratuitous eardrum-piercing noise.

For hours on end, the players sit motionless, their vacant gaze fixed on the small silver balls shooting up to the top of the slot machine, then falling, clattering, clanging and bouncing around and down off the metal pins, to the bottom. A spring-loaded metal hammer automatically shoots new balls up to the top again, and so the process continues. Once the slot machine has been set in motion there is nothing to do but sit and watch. Or smoke and watch. Or drink and watch.

You Can Make Money Too

Should you win, your boxes of metal balls are exchanged not for money, but for cigarettes, prizes, or for ‘tokens’. It is actually illegal to play Pachinko for money in Japan. So these tokens are taken outside into the street where, a short distance away there is a very discrete, unmarked kiosk with a small window where a silent, faceless cashier exchanges your tokens for hard cash. And real money can be made. There exist Pachinko professionals who make money and earn a very good living out of the game.

A peculiarly Japanese phenomenon, Pachinko is a consistent feature of any Japanese town with more than a handful of residents, and every day of the week, are usually full to bursting. More common than sushi bars, the Pachinko parlors are now an inescapable part of Japanese culture - health hazard or not.


Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.

A Pachinko Slots Sign
A Pachinko Slots Sign
Slots and Pachinko Parlor
Slots and Pachinko Parlor

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