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Japan Life!
Chapter: 10 Lesson: 0 - Pachinko History and Play Rules - Everything about Pachinko!
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Lesson added on: January 1, 1970 12:00am
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Introduction to Pachinko
If you go to Japan and suddenly happen to find yourself surrounded by flashing colorful lights, noise and music that plays at almost 100 decibel and cigarette smoke that will make you a second hand smoker, then you have probably ended up in a pachinko parlor.

It's in these places where you find the addicting gambling game pachinko. These gambling machines look like an upright standing pinball game, but it differs some from pinball.

The origin of pachinko is uncertain, but it is said that it was a children's toy in the 1920s. The pachinko's at this time weren't called pachinko; it was first called Korintu Gemu then later became know as Pachi-Pachi. These ones differed a bit from the ones that later showed up in a pachinko hall. It was among other things set horizontally and had a wooden stick that the balls where launched with.

At first this was a game that was designed for home use only, but later on it changed to a machine where children could win prizes like sweets, fruits or pencils. This became very popular and the machines started to show up in sweetshops, markets and at festivals. Soon the adults started to spend their time with the machines, but the prizes were then changed to things like tobacco, vegetables, soy sauce, or soap.

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In the end of the 1920s the machines developed a bit. Now they where set vertically and the wooden stick was exchanged for a metal spring. The machine was now also covered with glass for the obvious reason that the balls wouldn't fall out. The game was now called Gachan or Gachanko, and it started to spread rapidly over Japan.It was in the 1930s that the name Pachinko was started being used. Pachin is a Japanese word for the sound of the balls dropping down, Ko is for ball.

During World War II all of Japan's pachinko parlors were closed, but when they re-emerged in the late 1940s they were very popular due to the shortage and the fact that you could win tobacco. It became even more popular in the 1950s when the pachinko machines got a new design by the "pachinko king" Takeichi Masamura from Nagoya. Now the nails weren't just set randomly but instead systematic placed to direct the flow of the pachinko balls, and turning wheels were also added.

Several new types of pachinko machines were developed and now the pachinko won recognition.But it was in the 1980s that the real pachinko boom started, and this due to the new computer technology that was integrated into the machines. It now had graphics and sounds that made the game more exciting. And now you didn't need experience to be a winner, and this because of the random generator winnings. You can say that this was the transfer from the old to the modern pachinko. And since then the pachinko's haven't experienced any dramatically changes, besides slight modifications and a modernized style.

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How to Play
You start off with buying some small steel balls that you are going to fed the machine with; usually it's about 4 yen per ball. You put your pachinko balls in the machine and then it starts. The only thing you have to do is to control the speed that the pachinko ball is thrown into the pachinko board.

The pachinko board consists of pins and gates, and the goal is to get the balls into the gates. It's a bouncy ride for the balls that usually ends up in a hole in the bottom and disappears into the machine. But if you get a ball into a gate, then you'll get rewarded with more balls and also get to watch (if digital pachinko) a colorful video slot spin like animation on a LCD or LED screen that can give you a jackpot or "fever" mode, which is the highest payout mode. There are also several other modes that can be accessed depending on which machine the player is seated at.

Once in a higher payout mode, the player usually gets more balls from the gates. You should also know that there are many different pachinko machines that vary in things like decoration, music, modes, gate settings etc.

Since gambling is illegal in Japan, the parlors can't pay out cash, but they have a way around this. You can take your balls to the pachinko parlors' gift shop and exchange them for prizes, but can also exchange them for merchandize that you can bring to an exchange center just outside of the pachinko parlor, and there you can exchange the merchandize for money.

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Industry and Profits

While talking about money, one should mention that the industry generates annual gross wager of approximately 30 trillion yen (about $277 billion), but then you should also know that there are about 40 million Japanese residents that play pachinko, and an estimated 25 million play at regular basis. With these numbers it comes to no surprise when Pachinko is rated as the most popular source of leisure entertainment in Japan.

But it's not only Japan who makes a profit of this, a large number of pachinko parlors are run by foreign corporations like North Korea whom are involved in about one-third of the Japanese pachinko facilities. Even the Yakuza are linked to some of the pachinko activities. Incidentally, the Pachinko industry has a pretty bad reputation because of the illegal gambling and crime related connections but is still a common acceptable place to spend time at.

Give it a try and try not to get addicted!
Pachinko is well-known, widely played, and amazingly addictive, but despite this, Pachinko is here to stay and we invite you to try it for your self should you find yourself in the area. It's worth trying at least once.
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