Pachinkobabibubebo | 25 09 2006
Pachinko is a gambling game that is played all over Japan from Tokyo to the many rural areas. In Japan it is illegal to gamble. That being said, gambling is legally one of Japan’s biggest industries because of a loophole. Basically what happens is you put in money and get a certain amount of small metal balls. You then shoot these balls into a machine with small pegs in it and hope they land in certain holes (think pinball meets “Plunko” from The Price is Right). Anyway, if the balls land in certain holes you get more balls and then a reel spins (like in slot machines) if you get lucky you get something called “fever,” which means the wholes that you want to get the balls in widen and you are pretty much guaranteed to win some money. Anyway, when you want to collect your winnings you get your balls counted and take them to the counter. At the counter you then get some colored ticket and your winnings, which is usually some type of food or drink. Then you take your ticket to another place, not in same pachinko parlor but often right around the corner or next to the place and then you can get your real prize, the money. So because you are not getting money from the pachinko parlors, this is legal even though gambling is illegal in Japan.
Pachinko Parlors (and slot machines) are extremely popular in Japan and I have had people tell me that there job is just a part time job and playing pachinko is their REAL job. If you can get away with taking photos in a pachinko parlor then you might be able to get some interesting photos, but often they frown upon that kind of thing. Also the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) runs a lot of these places so it is best to stop if somebody asks you to.
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Okinawa: Shisa, the half dog half lion that is everywhere