Friday, March 20, 2009

Pachinko Parlor

Kids, this is not your father's pachinko parlor anymore! I remember one of my childhood friend's family had a pachinko machine that we would play with for hours. There was a mechanical lever arm that I would pull down and release, sending the shiny ball bearing racing up the curved track. There it would fall down through the forest of little metal wires, plinking and bouncing until it landed in either a scoring slot or would fall through into the hopper below. It was very mysterious and weird.

We had walked past a number of pachinko parlors in the last couple of days. They looked like casinos with flashing neon lights and lots of colors. When the automatic sliding glass doors would open, we were assaulted by a roaring wall of sound, and we could see long lines of seats full of people. And then the door would close...

Well, last night after the sushi conveyor belt restaurant, I said, “Hey, let's stick our heads in here.”

It was deafening! The video clip I have included doesn't really do it justice.

Similarly to hard core gamblers in casinos in the states, the people were just sitting there stone faced, watching the balls fall. These machines had less of the metal wire barriers of the machine I remember and video screens right in the middle of it, flashing anime (Japanese cartoon) characters and other seemingly random figures.

In the photos, you can see red plastic tubs of the pachinko balls. I guess you buy a tub from the cashier and then feed them into a hopper at the base of the machine. If you are lucky and win a bunch, you can fill other tubs. That's what I assume about the people that have many tubs on the floor next to their chairs.

Steve said that you cannot cash out your winnings in the parlor due to some legal restriction, so you have to take your tubs full of ball bearings outside and down some small alley to a kiosk where the attendant will dump them into a counting machine and give you your cash. However, we didn't see that part, and since there are many stories that we have been told about Tokyo that turned out to be not true, I'll take it with a grain of salt.

Somebody said, “Oh, they don't garden in Tokyo.” There are gardens and small farms everywhere. Somebody said, “No, you can't buy bathrobes here.” 2,000 yen will get you a terry cloth robe. Who knows what else we will find out next?

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