Pachinko Guide: Beginners & Balls

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Posted on April 1, 2015 5:28 pm | Leave your thoughts

Pachinko parlors are ever-present in Japan’s urban and suburban landscapes. In Tokyo, there can be dozens in a several block radius, making Starbucks look like a rare feature by comparison. Understanding their appeal is extremely difficult for foreigners, apart from seeing them as a novelty, but this pachinko guide will give you the basics.

Pachinko Types

    There are 3 modes:

  1. Prompt Mode – Lights, sounds, and objects move around when you hit jackpot. Good for first-time players, aka pachinko virgins.
  2. Replay Time Mode (RT Mode) – The intermediate mode and most popular.
  3. Assist Replay Mode (ART Mode) – This one involves betting, so if you hit jackpot the tokens can be increased. High risk/high reward mode; advanced players recommended.

Pachinko is gambling. Laws prevent gambling in Japan, but the parlors get around this by rewarding with prizes and tokens instead of money directly. Those tokens and prizes eventually get exchanged at a nearby building for cash. Most people think of pachinko as the Yakuza’s “legitimate” business operation. Supposedly, the gangsters are no longer in charge and the government is more tightly regulating them.

Novice pachinko players should focus on the 5¥ and 20¥ machines, unless you are a high roller with money to burn. The next thing to know is that pachinko is about collecting balls. Yep, the more balls the better. Sound fun? Even though the machines are digital video games now, physical metal balls are still involved.

    How to Play Pachinko: The Steps

  1. Choose a game. (Anime and J-Pop themes abound)
  2. Sit down and deposit your money. (Bring at least ¥1,000)
  3. Tokens that equal your deposit value will dispense.
  4. Now place the token(s) in the machine. (Up to 50 tokens at once)
  5. Pull the handle and the crazy begins.
  6. Like a slot machine, images will be spinning waiting for you to push the buttons from left to right in sequence to stop each one.
  7. If you hit jackpot the machine will let you know, but ask an attendant if unsure.
  8. Images must line up (like a slot machine) for jackpot to occur.
  9. If you hit jackpot, bonus play will start and tokens will dispense. (Each machine has its own quirks, so ask if confused.)
  10. Put all your tokens in the provided box.
  11. Once you are done, hit the “call” button and an attendant will come to help you count your tokens.
  12. The attendant will then give you are card showing the amount of tokens and you bring that to the prize counter to collect your prize.

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In recent years Japan’s youth has not found much to like about pachinko and the pachinko business community has noticed this trend with concern. The pachinko machines are now a hybrid of an arcade game and a slot machine, but twenty times more obnoxious. This is supposed to get a younger demographic more willing to waste away in its lonely smoke-filled parlors.

Pachinko places are fun to see while on a trip in Japan, but the intense smoke, noise, and sadness make the fun short-lived. If you are a fan of anime or J-Pop girls, you will notice they are the dominant themes of pachinko machines. AKB48, Galaxy Express 999, Fist of the North Star, and bikini girls are common, which can give you an indication of who their bread and butter clientele is; older men. Enjoy and be ready to smell like an ashtray


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This post was written by Matt Desmond

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