Halfway through my one-month trip to Japan in December, my fiance and I decided to give Pachinko Slot a try.
On Saturday we woke up to a lot of rain, and after a week spent traveling to Hakone and taking wedding photos, my fiance and I spent the morning watching movies we rented from Tsutaya and generally being lazy. When we finally couldn’t stand being indoors any longer, my fiance suggested we go to a Pachinko Slot game center called Million.
What is pachinko?
Pachinko games (パチンコ) look like vertical pinball machines, with a lot of small metal balls going through at one time. You exchange money for these balls and release them into the machine, and they fall down while being redirected by a bunch of pins. The idea is to capture as many balls as possible, and if you catch balls in the right place you can get a rush, which releases more balls. Pachinko machines are electronically controlled.
What is pachinko slot?
There are also slot machines, pachinko slot or pachislo (パチスロ) which are electronic, and similar to those seen at casinos in the US. You exchange money for medals, then insert the medals into the slot machine. Then you pull the knob to start the slots turning. You have buttons underneath the slot to pick when you want it to stop. That’s pretty much like Las Vegas casinos. Above the slots there is a video screen with an animated story related to whichever theme you’ve picked. My fiancé picked Tekken, and I took the Batman machine next to him. There are certain cues from the animated story that’s going on above the slots that tell you when you have a chance for a rush, and I still am pretty clueless about when the hints come up.
My fiancé sat next to me and multitasked, playing my game when I got rush opportunities, and playing his own. We didn’t want the staff to think we were doing anything weird, so we switched spots off and on when he was doing the important work to get the rush. I got to play during the rush which was exciting and ego-boosting, because it tells you which slot button to stop first and gives you bonuses without much skill. However, the Batman rush lasted hours because it gave me like 500 slot pulls and I kept getting more bonus games. While he finished off the rush, I played the Basilisk machine next door and kept getting mini rushes.
When you win a number of balls or medals, you have to take them to an employee who will count them through a machine and give you a ticket with the value of your medals or balls. You can take this to the game center’s prize store and redeem it for anything from a stick of beef jerky (which we got since we were hungry at the end) to a rice cooker (which we did not have enough credit for). The remainder can be taken out to a separate stall outside the parlor to exchange for cash. Gambling is illegal in Japan, so to circumvent gambling restrictions you have to go through this ticket-to-cash exchange at a separate location.
The atmosphere is very much like a Las Vegas casino. The machines are crowded into a few large rooms, and it is deafeningly loud with the sound of metal balls and the air is pretty thick with cigarette smoke, despite the ventilation. My fiance used to work at a pachinko slot part time, and one of his friends works at the Million we went to, so he wanted to show me what pachislot was all about. Since I had never even been to a pachinko parlor before, it took a while for me to figure out what was going on. (Even now, I would still be pressing buttons and hoping for the best if I played again.)
I enjoyed the experience overall, but I have to admit it was pretty exhausting! During a rush you have to constantly react to the onscreen instructions and push the buttons in a certain order, while following the storyline and being surrounded by the dull rush of noise and sounds. If you like to gamble I can see how it would be addicting.
We used the cheaper slots, that start from ￥2, because that way our losses basically evened out with our gains. You can go for the higher start price games, which have a chance of a higher reward, but since the games are electronically controlled, apparently they are designed for the house to always come out on top, and there’s no real way to win. So I suggest the ￥2 slots! We spent and won about ￥4000 ($33) and entertained ourselves on a rainy night.
Have you ever played pachinko slot? How did you do? How about other unique parlor games?