Yesterday, Satoshi and I were on the hunt for a DVD player. At one electronics store, we had to actually pass through a pachinko parlor in order to get up to the store (what a marketing tactic!)
What is pachinko? It is a form of gambling. In Japan, they have several different forms of gambling, from horse races to lotteries. The pachinko machines look like up-right pinball machines, but they also have slot machines built in. These machines are apparently called pachi-slo (pachinko + slot). According to Satoshi (because I have never played), you put your money into the machine and these tiny silver ball bearings appear. You feed them into the machine with your left hand and your right hand controls the "flippers".
On my way to the market, I sometimes walk past these pachinko parlors and you should see the line of people! (Doesn't anyone have to work? Or maybe that is their job?) When travelling around Japan there aren't many places that do not have these pachinko parlors. Anyway, if you fill up enough containers with ball bearings, you can trade them in for prizes like toilet paper or other everyday items or you can receive a marker that can be traded for $$ from a secret location.
I don't know how these people can stand being in these parlors for very long though, it is very loud and noisy. Not only do the machines make noises, but the ball bearings do too while flying around on the pins. And if you hit the jackpot, there are flashing lights and lots of ball bearings that come out of the machine. Plus, it is super smoky! Talk about 2nd hand smoke! Blah! But, I guess these people didn't seem to mind. Some people are so hooked on pachinko that they forgo all of their other responsibilities. Like once, a father left his child in the car while he went in to play, this was during the day, so the car that his child was waiting in got really hot and the child died because of heat exhaustion! Several times a year in Japan, there are similar incidents like this. Very sad!
Still, it is something to experience.
Hope you have a great week.