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“The Playful and Playable Japan”



When you travel, you'd probably want to visit some landmarks, spend some time gazing at the spectacular scenery and just take in as much air you can of the foreign land, right? Well, if so, taking some time to really experience mass entertainment common people in that area are engaged in doesn'r hurt your travel memory. Here I will feature some of the Japanesy places and plays and games you can try when you come to Japan.

Volume one covers THE adult amusement from north to south, pachinko.

Unbelievably yet true, pachinko places are literally everywhere in this country. If you see a really razzla-dazzle dashy building exhaling unbearably loud noise, it's 99.9% a pachinko parlor and I'd tell you, most of the train stations in Tokyo have one pachinko place within a 200-meter-diameter.

In a word, it's a gamble spot and because there are also slot machines in most of the pachinko places it can be described as a mass casino for common Japanese people (casinos are acutally illegal in Japan but somehow they manage to find a way to make them legal across the country).

The difference between a pachinko or a pachislo (pachinko+slot) place and a casino, if I should point out, would be the atmosphere. The music inside the parlor is so loud that you feel like you have a stereo banging next to your ears all the time, and loud fanfare and beeps constantly come out from the pachinko machines. It is also filled with tobacco smoke all the time in every corner, and you can even say that the place is a total mess with no civilization.

But I hear that for those patron who are addicted to pachinko, that mess is what makes them feel more comfortable than any other place in this world.

In a pachinko place, there are rows and rows of pachinko machines leaving only narrow isles between each row. I once heard that the maker of the film Matrix was inspired by this layout in the pachinko parlor, and you can see his pachinko-inspired final product in the film where the protagonist stands between a collection of numerous weapons whipping out in front of him in a white imaginary space.

The machines are called the pachinko-dai. It's basically a vertical board with dozens of nails, covered with another glass board. Inside the pachinko-dai is springs the pachinko-dama (a steel ball) which is launched by an equipped machine. The shot pachinko-dama strays among the nails drawing a sophisticated locus and eventually falls down. There is a bingo hole carved in some places of the pachinko-dai and when the pachinko-dama falls into that hole, you get to get a certain amount of tama (=balls). The tama you gained can either be used again for the next game to gain or lose more balls, or can be exchanged with gifts.

When you exchange the tama with gifts, you get stupid things like unusable coins in a cardcase or a stone from a lighter. They are called the special gifts, and you can exchange them again with real money outside the pachinko place. This is how the vicious cycle goes on and on.

This time I explained about how pachinko works. Next time I'll write how to actually go into a pachinko place and try playing (gambling) with the machines.


Made in Japan Contents
  • Green Tea 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
    Spirited Away (2001)
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Yasunari Kawabata
  • Banana Yoshimoto
  • Yukio Mishima
  • Inazo Nitobe
  • Japanese Tea
  • Bonsai
  • VAIO
  • Canon

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