January 9, 2006 part 1 – Second hand fraternity shirts and pachinko

Disclaimer: UPS is the nickname of one of my friends visiting Japan. This post has nothing to do with United Parcel Service.

My friend UPS was visiting from Canada. After spending the day in Tokyo yesterday and planning on spending tomorrow in Tokyo and are, we decided to stay around Numazu today.

We walked from my apartment towards Numazu station. Our first stop was a used clothing store, where we were surprised to find several fraternity T-shirts and hoodies. I met UPS when I joined Delta Upsilon fraternity in 2002, and we were taught that wearing clothing with our fraternity letters was a privilege and a responsibility. For us it was strange to see that other groups lettered shirts, which would have been so valuable to us, had ended up in a used clothing store half way around the world. We bought as many as we could find as a gift for our fellow DUs.

We worked our way over to the Nakamise shopping area, which is also the home to my NOVA branch. Just down the street from NOVA is a giant pachinko parlour. UPS wanted to experience as much of Japanese culture as possible during his 4 day trip, so we walked in to play some pachinko.

I have only played pachinko once or twice before. I never really knew what was going on, but I did enjoy the noisy, flashy environment inside the pachinko parlour; once you pass through the doors it’s total sensory overload. We sat down at side by side machines, put in our money, and then used the lever to shoot little metal balls through the board towards a little hole. A nearby Japanese man tried to give us some pointers on how to use the machine. It didn’t help me, but UPS seemed to do a little better.

Gambling for money is largely illegal in Japan. The loophole with pachinko is that you win more metal balls which you exchange for a prize. You can then sell your prize for money in a nearby prize exchange booth.

UPS decided to cash in his metal balls, and found he had enough for an energy drink. He decided that instead of exchanging the energy drink for a small amount of money that he would just drink it instead. Re-energized, we went to find a place for lunch while discussing what kind of mischief might be possible with a bunch of fraternity t-shirts.

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