Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Pachinko is one of those parts of Japanese culture which you hear a lot about back in the west. In the past, there was mainly fascination with the way in which the game works since it's relatively unique. These days, we tend to hear a lot more about parents who are addicted to pachinko whose children suffer injury or death due to neglect.
Technically, pachinko is a game and not a form of gambling but, in reality, it is gambling. Cash cannot be paid out directly for wins but people can take their wins around the corner to a shop and exchange them for cash. This is one of the reasons the game is so addicting.
The fact that this sort of back door gambling occurs right under the noses of the police is an indication that this is another one of those illegal activities that the Japanese just look the other way on. This sort of thing happens a fair amount in Japan. It follows the cultural trend of dealing with problems in a "case by case" fashion. They can enforce laws when they choose to but don't choose to unless they have a compelling reason.
I've been in a pachinko parlor exactly once and I hated the experience. I tried the game but couldn't see the appeal and the places are very noisy and full of smoke. The atmosphere and environment feel very seedy and they definitely have a Las Vegas slot machine feel to them.
While I don't go into pachinko parlors, I often walk past two local ones. One of the things you can't help but notice about them is that they frequently remodel. Part of the reason for this is that they change the machines but a larger reason may be they just want to offer a gaudy new design so people will not get bored with the environment. Perhaps a new look makes people feel like they're doing the same thing for the thousandth time in a new place.
The local pachinko parlors have gone through a kaleidoscope of themes and name changes but the business is always the same. The flyer pictured above was in our mailbox announcing changes to one of those places. It reminded me that one of the things that often goes hand in hand with Pachinko is cartoon characters of scantily clad and/or women with breasts that would make Dolly Parton feel inadequate about her upstairs. On this flyer, the cartoon seems to be reflecting the current fad in Japan of "maid cafés". I guess it seems to be trying to appeal to the otaku crowd that gets off on subservient cosplaying women. The black triangle in the corner is a coupon for a free drink.