If you’ve never visited Japan, then it’s likely you’ve heard about “pachinko.” But if you’ve been to Japan, it’s quite impossible to not know or hear the word. In the present time, the Japanese pachinko industry makes $200 billion per year, which is over 30 times what is spent by people in Las Vegas and Macau combined each year. Since pachinko parlors only exist in Japan, they have grown to be a large part of the culture. In fact, the pachinko industry accounts for about 4% of the Japanese Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
If you want to learn more about the game, you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to give you more information about the pachinko industry in Japan.
What is Pachinko?
If you are unfamiliar with the game, we are very much happy to explain it to you. Pachinko is basically a type of mechanical game that is played in Japan. It can be played both recreationally and as a type of gambling. They are complex pinball games, and you can think of them as equal to the slot machines in the West.
When you visit pachinko parlors, you will see them filled with loud machines, which you can hear even when you’re far away. The concept of pachinko is simple. You will throw a ball on the board, and it bumps into pins, altering its trajectory. The ball will be thrown more or less far at the top of the board, depending on how much power you put. The goal when you play is to make the ball reach certain reward spots.
As the years passed, the game of pachinko evolved from a wooden game to using metal balls and pins. In the present time, all pachinko machines feature integrated games within the board.
With the advancement of technology, pachinko games today can also be played online through online casinos. In fact, global entertainment websites are featuring Japanese online casinos, as well. But did you know that the pachinko industry has a history of about 70 years dating back to the immediate postwar period? That’s amazing, right? Knowing that it is still being played by many people today.
When and Where Did Pachinko Originated in Japan?
Did you know that Pachinko was once a game for kids? In 1924, the Corinthian Bagatelle game, which features a plunger and wooden dowels, was imported from Chicago to Nagoya, Japan. It has found its place in candy stores where children could play the game and win certain candies based on their results. The kids called the game “Pachi-Pachi” due to the sound it made while they play.
In 1930, the very first pachinko parlor was founded in Nagoya. It then began growing, and the industry skyrocketed in 1936. In less than 6 months, there were already 35 parlors that were opened in the Kochi prefecture alone. However, all of them closed between 1938 and 1946 to keep the materials and manpower for the war in China and then World War II.
After the war, the pachinko industry even grew faster. In 1953, there were more than 300,000 registered pachinko parlors in Japan, with many pachinko machines each. As the decades passed, pachinko parlors also evolved. The number of parlors may have decreased, but the industry became larger and increased in revenue. In fact, in 1999, the pachinko industry accounted for 5.6% of Japan’s GDP.
Today, when you visit pachinko parlors, you will notice that most machines are sponsored by famous games and movies. It attracts fans of games like Zelda and Mario or movies like Star Wars.
How Pachinko Avoided the Gambling Ban in Japan
In 1907, gambling was banned in Japan. Since the pachinko game has a highly unpredictable outcome, the game itself can be considered a form of gambling. Based on Japanese law, it is prohibited to play games that have money as a direct reward. With this, pachinko parlors bypassed the law by offering different types of prizes.
Most of the time, tokens are won in a pachinko game, which does not hold much worth. The token is then sold in a shop outside the parlor. Even though pachinko owners also own that shop, they keep them separated. With this, the law no longer considers pachinko as a form of gambling.
How Addictive is the Game of Pachinko?
In the present time, there are about 7.8 million players of pachinko in the archipelago, which is about 6.2% of the population or 1 out of 16 Japanese citizens. Many tourists try to play pachinko for entertainment and experience. But most players are veterans of the game. They have been playing it for decades, and some even daily. In fact, there are people in Japan who are making a living out of the game.
We can say that many people have been addicted to the game, too. In the 1990s, there were mothers playing pachinko while holding their babies on one lap. There were even kids who died due to suffocation in the car while waiting for their parents.
There are people who believe that pachinko would not have grown or become very popular if casinos had not been banned. But we can disagree on this because the game did not start as a form of gambling but just a simple game in candy stores.
We can say that the pachinko industry is a very important part of history in Japan. Even up to this date, the game still fills large buildings and attracts millions of players from different countries. The pachinko industry is one that focused on its own market and has successfully grown its fan base.
If people travel to Las Vegas to visit casinos and spend thousands of dollars in just one night, pachinko is different. The industry had focused on bringing back players every day until the players considered it a part of their routines, like going to the grocery store. And we can agree that habits are more difficult to break.