Posts Tagged pachinko

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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July 5, 2004 pt2 – Pachinko and passports

In Kyoto, my father and I went out for sushi and beer while my sister and mother went to McDonalds. By request, my mother wanted to spend the evening with me, leaving my sister and father to have their own adventure.

My mom and I went out for dinner near Mukogaokayuen station. I tried to be a good tour guide, showing off the neighbourhood. We talked about my time in Japan so far and my job, and also caught up on things that were happening back at home.

After dinner my mom wanted to try pachinko. I had played came centre “fun” pachinko before, but had never tried the real thing. No matter where you go in Japan, you are never very far from a pachinko parlour. We easily found one and sat down.

Neither one of us knew what do to with the machine, but a friendly man next to us showed us where to put the money and what to do. We fed in some money, turned the lever and watched as a stream of little silver balls bounced through the machine. In case that wasn’t distracting enough, there were also lights and a video screen. It was total sensory overload, but we really didn’t get into it too much. It was a good experiment for 1000 yen each.

We walked back to Hello House, wondering how my father and sister did with their evening out. When we saw them, they were excited to tell the story.

The two of them went to a restaurant near the station and sat down at a table. The restaurant was one of the convenient places near a station with at ticket machine outside. To order, you insert money, press the button for the food you want, and then enter the restaurant and give the ticket to the waitress. The waitress noticed they didn’t have tickets, and took them outside to the machine. My dad and sister pointed at the food models that they wanted, and the waitress pressed the correct buttons on the ticket machine.

They had a good dinner and conversation, and then got up to leave and walk around the Noborito station area. As they started walking down the street, they heard someone yelling from behind. It was the waitress from the restaurant, running after them with my sister’s purse. With all the excitement about dinner, my sister had left her purse with her money and passport at the table. My sister showed the waitress that the passport was inside, and then offered thanks in English and Japanese.

In some other countries, the waitress wouldn’t have made the effort to help the foreigners who couldn’t speak the local language to order food. And in other countries, the purse would have either sat in the lost and found or “disappeared”. Japan is not other countries. In my short time in the country, I have seen countless examples of staff going above and beyond to provide great service. Thank you, station restaurant waitress! You helped make our evening memorable in a good way.

(2014 Update) My mom and I needed this site, which explains in (sort of) English how to play pachinko.

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June 1, 2004 pt2 – I don’t understand medal games

After dinner, we all went to Kawasaki. I needed to get some shift swap paperwork signed, so I left Code Red, Hippie, Flounder and Green at a nearby game center. Since I was in casual clothes, I couldn’t go into the building to meet the other teachers, so I hung around in front of the building waiting for them to come out. Japan is a very safe country, but there are always a bunch of homeless people hanging around in the trees near the entrance to NOVA, so it’s not the most comfortable place to hang around.

Eventually the teachers came out and I got my paperwork signed. I walked to the game center to find everyone watching Flounder playing a large medal game. The game had bouncing balls, flashing lights, video screens, and a coin pusher, basically total sensory overload. Flounder was trying to manipulate the coins in order to push more tokens towards his collector. There were a number of other medal games in the area – horse racing simulators, slot machines, card battle games, and others.

Using gambling machines to win money is illegal in Japan, but you can win prizes. One popular example is pachinko, which is kind of like a high tech vertical pinball game. To play, you buy a bunch of little metal balls and feed them into the pachinko machine. Using a knob, you attempt to fire the balls through the game board into a small hole. Doing this wins you more little metal balls. When you are done playing, you can exchange any balls you have left for a prize. The loophole is that every pachinko parlour in Japan has a nearby prize exchange shop, where you can sell your prize for cash.

I was not familiar with medal games, but I assumed that they would operate on the same principle as pachinko. Flounder won a huge number of tokens playing the game. He took them to the service counter, where the tokens were counted and Flounder received a card that kept track of how many tokens he owned. The next time he returned, he could use his tokens again to play the games and attempt to win more tokens. I tried to ask the employee where the prize exchange was. The employee tried to tell me that there was no such thing for medal games. At the time I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, or just not allowed to explain about exchanging prizes for cash. I promised Flounder that I would look into it.

Medal games can be a fun way to spend some time, but there is no way to win money. If you want to try to gamble for cash, play pachinko instead.

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