Pachinko – Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge #18


In response to Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge Week #18

What is Pachinko?

Pachinko is a form of gambling in Japan. It is like a cross between a slot and a pinball machine.  Pachinko parlours are an absolute cacophony of noise and often very smokey. I can last about five minutes before feeling the onset of deafening insanity!

Legal Loophole

What is interesting is the bizarre legal loophole that lets this very popular and no doubt lucrative gambling business continue.

Gambling for money in Japan is basically illegal with the exceptions of horse racing, boat racing and velodrome cycle racing. There are also lotteries.

When you play Pachinko, you feed metal marble like ball bearings in to a pinball like slot machine. If you hit the Jackpot more balls come out. You see people sitting at the machines with boxes stacked on top of each other filled with these ball bearings.

My recent guests decided to check out a parlour. We commandeered one machine, bought about 1000 yen or $10 worth of balls and started to “play” Inverted commas because we didn’t have a clue what we were doing! However Ms A must have done something right because those balls came tumbling out! The attendants gathered round and gave resounding applause. I know it was resounding because I could hear it over the ear battering noise from the machines. After we had done our dash we had about a box and a half of balls so we took them upstairs to be weighed. This is where it gets interesting.

Money cannot technically be awarded at pachinko parlors as this would be in violation of the criminal code. However, players  exchange pachinko balls for special tokens. My friends were given about 4 packages of varying different colours. The lady behind the counter handed them over with a smile. Once you get these tokens you then have to take them off site to a special hole in the wall, some where nearby and then “sell” them at this so called “shop” for cash. These “shops” are obviously owned by the parlor operators, but as long as the winners do not receive cash in the parlour, the law is not broken.

What was really funny was when I asked the cashier where we needed to take the tokens, a floor assistant quickly stepped forward and said that both she and the cashier were not able to tell us where we needed to go. However she could physically take us there! We were led outside and taken around to the back of the parlour where there was a literal hole in the wall type kiosk. My friends handed over their 1 gold token and 3 silver ones and got back 8000 yen, about $80. Not bad for a 30 minute 1000 yen initial investment through the trade off for industrial deafness might not be such a good deal! Some of the other punters had upwards of ten boxes full of balls stacked up

We all were left shaking our heads as it is so obvious what is happening and is totally accepted yet at the same time seems slightly dodgy. I read Pachinko “is officially not considered gambling because Japanese laws regard pachinko as an exception to the criminal code on gambling for historical, monetary, and cultural reasons.” I have no idea what the heck that means except maybe from way back there were some big back handers paid somewhere along the line for a big blind eye?????

Either way it was a fun one off experience and yet again I am left saying ” Only in Japan!”

Yoroshiku Onegai shimasuimages (1)


19 responses to “Pachinko – Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge #18

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  7. Wow, haha, an interesting experience for your visitors! I’ve never played in a pachinko parlour, although come to think of it, it sounds pretty similar to arcade games!


  8. totally fascinating! i visited a pachinko parlor in tokyo and was so overwhelmed by the sound, couldn’t believe how the people could sit there and play in all that noise! this is so cool now to read your article and understand a little more how it works, as i had no clue. 🙂


    • Glad to be of help! My dad visited years ago and tried it. He laughed when we found out about the hole in the wall because my uncle had been and had thought it was very strange that you spent all that money and only got stuffed toys and chocolates. If you don’t get enough balls for money you can pick out prizes on site, that is acceptable and lawful because it is not money. I think my uncle’s Japanese associates were too embarrassed or didn’t know how to explain about the money side of things so they loaded him up with gifts form the gift bar.

      Liked by 1 person

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  10. We had a pachinko machine when I was growing up. It was my sister’s, and we would play it a lot. One day it broke. I think there are still the steel balls hiding around this house somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

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