Pachinko Challenge


In my previous trip to Japan in March, I failed the challenge of entering a Pachinko Parlour to play a game as my friend wasn’t to keen on entering due to the smoke and I wasn’t brave enough to enter alone. This July, I finally succeeded (alright I know it ain’t a big deal) in visiting and playing a Pachinko Machine inside the cigarette-smoke-everywhere Pachinko Parlour.

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If you haven’t been to Japan, you must be wondering “what’s the big deal” with Pachinko. In Japan, Pachinko/slots is the only form of legalized entertainment (or “gambling” – with inverted commas) whereby you sit down in front of a machine, put in cash and metal balls come out and you have to move this knob to release the balls (somewhat like a pinball machine).  The balls will fall through hundreds of pins and some may be lucky enough to enter this special slot. If it enters, the “SPECIAL” will be activated and you have a chance of winning more metal balls. These balls can be exchanged for prizes (ranging from snacks to household appliances) or cash (to be done discretely outside the shop).

The reason that got me fascinated was that the streets of Japan, be it Tokyo, Osaka or Sapporo, Pachinko parlour are aplenty. There are so many shops around, some of which cover multiple floors. Can’t help but wonder why these places are so popular when they don’t exactly win money? (Gambling is illegal in Japan as at Aug 2015 – and there are no casinos in Japan) In order to curb the urge to gamble, people resort to playing Pachinko and winning cash the indirect way.

Alright.. now for the real experience..

After countless procrastination during the trip, I finally entered a Pachinko place along the shopping streets of Sapporo! It was approximately 9pm on a weekday night and I finally entered the place.

Since I did not do any research prior to visiting this place, the first instinct was to look for a counter, hoping to exchange for some metal balls. We went up to the second floor (filled with slots machine) and I went over to the counter (which was actually the counter people that people exchange for prizes or “tokens-which can be exchanged for cash”. As I spoke no Jap, the staff had to look for another staff to assist me. Awkwardness to its maximum but once I switch my mindset to “I am a Tourist”, it was fine.

Shortly after, an english speaking guy directed me back down to the first floor (where all the Pachinko machines were) and asked me to choose a (lucky) machine. He also gave me an all-English guide of “How to Play Pachinko” which was printed on a double-side A4 paper. Wanted to take a photo of the entire paper but I can’t find the paper anymore. Will update again if I see it.

Alright so here the steps:

1. Choose a Machine and sit down

2. Put $$ into the machine. I can’t recall if they accept coins but I guess the “minimum” should be a 1,000Y note.

3. Balls will fall out into a tray at the bottom of the machine.

4. Use your hand to hold a knob at the right side of the machine. The knob controls the strength of the “shooting of the balls”. There’s a golden angle degree that the knob should be turned to – this golden angle was shared to me by the staff, written on the paper guide and even online! The angle is approximately at 11:00 on a clock.

5. If you adjusted the knob to the ideal strength, most of the balls (which shoot out from the bottom left) will have the chance of entering this particular position, which is said to be the best.

6. Wait for the balls to fall and if it falls into this particular hole, you get free balls and there would be a chance of “Jackpot” if there’s 3 in a row.

7. If you win jackpot and the balls keep coming and your basket is full, click on the “call” button at the top and a staff will come an assist you. I’ve read somewhere that you should not move the baskets yourself.

On the other hand, if you don’t win much, you will find your tray empty very quickly. Stop the pain quickly and just leave before you take out another note to feed the machine. I think my 1,000Y play was less than 5 minutes and my friends persuaded me to down another 1,000Y which was once again gone within minutes.

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8. So if you’re lucky enough to have won enough baskets and you feel that it’s enough for the day/night, you press the “call” button and the staff will assist to bring all your baskets of metal balls to the counter.

9. After the count, you will be given a receipt and you can bring it to the counter to exchange for prizes.

10. Don’t know how true it is, but you can exchange the receipt for a token and then bring the token to exchange for cash in another place few steps away from the Pachinko Parlour.

“Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan. Pachinko balls won from games cannot be exchanged directly for money in the parlor. The balls are exchanged for prizes or tokens, which can be exchanged for cash at a place nominally separate from the parlor.”


Quoted from wikepedia.

I am not able to verify the cash out option as I only spent 2,000Y and perhaps 20 minutes max inside this Pachinko place =/

Never been lucky in games of chance.

If you’re wondering how the hell did I survive with all that smoke (which I openly declare that I hate), the truth is I was secretly pinching/pressing my nose and breathing lesser when I was in there AND sad but true, your body will get accustomed to it after a while. The cigarette smell was less disturbing than I imagined it to be.

Well, once I was done with ”my experience“ and gathered enough info to write this post, I was ready to leave and end the suffering of my supportive friends who accompanied me. This post has a lack of photographs because I was pretty much a scaredy-cat and/or too engrossed with my lesser breaths.

If you are still keen on Pachinko, here are other articles worth a good read:

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