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File:Pachinko parlour.jpg

A pachinko parlour in Tokyo.

Pachinko (パチンコ?) is a Japanese gaming device used for amusement and gambling. A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but with no flippers and a large number of relatively small balls. The player fires a ball up into the machine, controlling only its initial speed. The ball then cascades down through a dense forest of pins. In most cases, the ball falls to the bottom and is lost, but if it instead goes into certain pockets, more balls are released as a jackpot.[1] Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but modern ones have incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to video slot machines, and referred to as Pachislo (パチスロ Pachisuro?).

The machines are widespread in establishments called "pachinko parlors", which also often feature a number of slot machines. Pachinko parlors share the reputation of slot machine dens and casinos the world over — garish decoration; over-the-top architecture; a low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke; the constant din of the machines, music, and announcements; and flashing lights. Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable, keeping enthusiasts continuously entertained.

Because gambling for cash is illegal in Japan and Taiwan, balls won cannot be exchanged directly for cash in the parlor. Instead, the balls are exchanged for token prizes, which can then be taken outside and traded in for cash at a business that is nominally separate from the parlor, and may be run by organized crime (yakuza).[2]


Pachinko machines were first built during the 1920s as a children's toy called "corinth game" (コリントゲーム korinto gēmu?); based on and named after an American game called "Corinthian Bagatelle".[3] Pachinko then emerged as an adult pastime in Nagoya around 1930. All of Japan's pachinko parlors were closed down during World War II, but re-emerged in the late 1940s and have remained popular since then. Taiwan also has many pachinko establishments due to Japan's influence during their occupation in the early 1900s.

Until about 1980, pachinko machines were mechanical devices.[4] These machines are gravity-fed, meaning that the balls always flow downward, except when powered by a human: either the player shooting a ball, or an employee opening up the cabinet and putting more balls in the feeder bin at the top. When the player wins, a bell is rung by the mechanical action of the newly acquired balls flowing through the machine. Electricity (10 volts DC) is used only to flash a light when the player wins and to indicate problems, such as a machine that has been emptied of its balls.[5] The player launches balls using a chrome flipper, and can control the speed of the balls to some extent by pulling the flipper down to different levels. The front panel has a tray for balls that are ready to be played, a tray into which balls can be emptied when the player is ready to quit, and an ashtray. Manufacturers in this period included Nishijin and Sankyo. Most machines available on online auction sites today date to the 1970s.[4]

Starting around 1980, pachinko machines began to incorporate more and more electronic features, and began to require electricity for operation. Rather than a mechanical chrome flipper, these machines have a round knob that can be rotated to control the speed of the balls.

How it works

File:Pachinko entrance.jpg

Entrance to pachinko parlor in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

There are many types of pachinko machines and parlor regulations, but most of them conform to a similar style of play. In order to play pachinko, players can buy metal balls by inserting either cash, a pre-paid card, or their member's card directly into the machine they want to use. At parlors offering an exchange rate of 4 yen per ball, 1000 yen (around $10.00 USD) will get you 250 balls. These balls are then shot into the machine from a ball tray with the purpose of attempting to win more balls. The pachinko machine has a digital slot machine on a large screen in the center of its layout, and the objective here is to get 3 numbers or symbols in a row for a jackpot.

Originally, pachinko machines had a spring-loaded lever for shooting the balls individually, but modern machines use a round "throttle" that merely controls how strongly an electrically fired plunger shoots the balls onto the playfield. When shot, the balls drop through an array of pins/nails. While most balls simply fall through to the bottom of the pachinko layout, occasionally some will fall into the center gate and start up the digital slot machine in the center screen. Every ball that goes into the start-up gate results in one spin of the slot machine, and the maximum amount of "credit" at any given time is 4 spins. This spin credit system is required because it is often the case that a ball will go into the center gate while a spin of the slot machine is still in progress. Each spin typically pays out 3 balls, but the ultimate goal is to hit the jackpot and win a lot more. Contrary to popular belief, the program of the digital slot machine decides whether the player has a jackpot or not the moment a ball activates it, not when the numbers or symbols are actually spinning.[citation needed]

Payout mode

During the spinning of the slot machine, when the first 2 numbers or letters of the spin match up the digital program will almost always enter into "reach mode" where many animations and movies are then shown before the final outcome is known just to give the player a boost of added excitement. Most pachinko machines offer different odds in hitting a jackpot, ranging from 1 in 40 to 1 in 480. However, the most common set of odds among today's machines are 1 in 100, 1 in 300, 1 in 350, and 1 in 400. If the player does manage to get 3 numbers or symbols in a row to obtain a jackpot the machine will enter into "payout mode."

Depending on what type of pachinko machine is being played, the payout mode usually lasts for 15 "rounds." During each round, amidst more animations and movies playing on the center screen, a large payout gate opens up at the bottom of the machine layout and the player must try to shoot balls into it. Each ball that successfully enters into this gate results in around 12 balls being paid out into a separate tray at the bottom of the machine, which can then be placed into a ball bucket for the player to do with as he or she wishes. The average total payout per jackpot is around 1250 balls, or 5000 yen worth.

Kakuhen and Jitan

After the payout mode has ended, the pachinko machine may do one of two things. Almost all of them employ the kakuhen system, which is where half of the possible jackpots on the digital slot machine (usually the odd number combinations like 111, 333, 555, etc.) result in the odds of hitting the next jackpot improving by 10 fold, for instance, from 1 in 350 to 1 in 35. Common kakuhen percentages offered by pachinko machines are 65%, 75%, and 80%, but some machines, such as Burst Angel offer odds up to 93%. When a jackpot is reached, a random number generator will produce a number between 0 and 100 to see if that particular jackpot will result in a kakuhen. Hence, under the kakuhen system, it is possible for a player to get 3, 10, or even more consecutive jackpots after the first "hard earned" one. Such a streak of jackpots is commonly referred to as being in "fever mode."

Another type of kakuhen system is the "special time" kakuhen, which is referred to as a "ST machine." With these pachinko machines, every jackpot earned results in a kakuhen, but, in order to earn a payout beyond the first jackpot, the player must then hit a certain set of odds within a given amount of spins. For instance, a particular machine may require a player to hit a 1 in 10 jackpot odds within 5 spins. Another example would be having to hit a 1 in 43 jackpot odds within 74 spins.

When an original jackpot or any subsequent jackpot is not a kakuhen combination, then the pachinko machine will enter into "jitan mode," which typically last for 100 spins. Here, over the next 100 spins, under the original payout odds, a "blossom" opens up near the center gate to make it considerably easier for balls to fall into it. This blossom assist system is also present when the player is in kakuhen mode. To compensate for the sudden increase in the number of spins over both of these periods, the digital slot machine will produce the final outcomes of each spin much more quickly, typically within 1 second. ST pachinko machines typically do not offer any sort of jitan mode.

Once the jitan mode has ended at 100 spins and no more jackpots have been made, the pachinko machine will revert back to its original setting.

Video Shot in the 40's of a Pachinko Parlor.

Video shot in the 50's of a Pachinko Parlor and show how everything worked.

Machine design and payouts

File:Pachinko machine, Tokyo (screen blurred).jpg

A pachinko machine in a Tokyo parlour.

Machines vary in decoration, colors, lights, music, modes, as well as gate size, gate collectors size, the speed at which gate collectors open and close, and gate placement. Some machines simply have more, activate more, or have larger or more accessible gates than others allowing more balls in. Also, most machines have customizable settings inside the machine (accessible by parlour workers only) to pay out more balls (changeable random number generator multiplier settings for each mode) or changeable mode lengths, allowing for a high level of customization. All these factors keep things interesting and lead to long time pachinko enthusiasts to the belief that certain machines are "good" and have been tweaked to have very high payout settings. Different parlours have different types of machines and different settings, so enthusiasts may switch parlours if they are unsatisfied with any particular one.

Pachinko machines vary greatly in the odds of hitting a jackpot, number of payout rounds, number of balls per payout, odds of getting a kakuhen, and number of rounds in jitan mode. The most common difference are the typical "old-school" machines that are hard to get jackpots on but pay out a lot, and the "ama-deji" or "yu-pachi" machines that are easier to win on but pay out relatively little (typically one-third the amount of the former). Old-school pachinko machines average about 1 in 350 odds of hitting a jackpot, 15 rounds per payout, 1250 balls per payout, 60-80% odds of a kakuhen, and 100 rounds in jitan mode. In comparison, the ama-deji/yu-pachi machines offer around 1 in 100 odds of hitting a jackpot, 5 rounds per payout, 450 balls per payout, 50% kakuhen, and 25-50 rounds in jitan mode. At present, the old-school pachinko machines are the choice of hard gamblers while the ama-deji-yu-pachi machines cater to those who just want to play pachinko for fun rather than profit.

Koatari (Two-Round Jackpots) and Senpuku (Hidden Kakuhen)

Starting in 2007, the majority of Japanese pachinko machine manufacturers started to include what are referred to as koatari into their payout systems, which is a "small" jackpot that lasts for two rounds in addition to the normal jackpots (ooatari) that are offered. Even though koataris officially count as a two round jackpot, during payout mode the payout gate opens up each time for only 0.8 seconds even if no balls go into it. Moreover, the timing of when the payout gates opens during a koatari is unpredictable, which effectively makes it a jackpot where the player receives no payout whatsoever. Like normal jackpots in pachinko, koatari jackpots can result in a kakuhen depending on the payout scheme of the machine in question.

The main purpose of incorporating koataris into pachinko machines is so that pachinko manufacturers can offer payout schemes that appear to be largely favorable to customers. For instance, a standard machine that offers only 15 rounds of payout per jackpot may offer odds of 1 in 310 with a 55% of getting a kakuhen. In comparison, if that same machine was designed so that only 80% of kakuhen jackpots lasted for 15 rounds in payout while the rest were kakuhen koataris, the manufacturers could boost the kakuhen odds up to 70% without losing any long-term profit in the payout design. Hence, it is advisable that players carefully check the payout schemes of the pachinko machines they wish to play in order to decide whether or not they really appear to be profitable to play.

In addition to being able to offer higher kakuhen percentages, koatari make it possible for pachinko makers to design highly popular "battle-type" machines, such as Fist of the North Star, Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Kinnikuman, and so forth. Unlike old-fashioned pachinko machines that offer a full payout or a kakuhen for any type of jackpot earned, battle-type pachinko machines differ in that they require players to hit a kakuhen jackpot in order to get a full payout. For instance, if a battle-type machine offers an 82% of a kakuhen (70% ooatari and 12% kakuhen koatari) while the other 18% is a normal koatari, the player must hit the 82% in order to go into or stay in kakuhen mode. This is typically orchestrated by the player entering into "kakuhen battle mode" after the first kakuhen jackpot is reached, which is where the player, in accordance with the anime, movie, tv show, or manga series that machine is based on, must "defeat" a certain enemy or foe in order to earn another kakuhen koatari or kakuhen jackpot. If, however, the player loses a particular battle, this usually means that he or she has hit a normal koatari and the machine will then enter into jitan mode. The added excitement of players "battling" to earn a string of consecutive kakuhen jackpots is what makes such machines highly popular in today's pachinko industry.

Another major reason for incorporating koataris into pachinko play is that they make it possible for a machine to go into kakuhen mode without the player's knowledge. This is referred to as a senpuku (hidden) kakuhen because it occurs in normal mode and is not accompanied with a blossom assist system, or it is present during jitan mode. Hence, with the senpuku kakuhen it is possible for a player to sit at a used pachinko machine that offers 1 in 400 chances of hitting a jackpot in normal mode but hit a jackpot within 40 spins relatively easily because the previous player did not realize that he or she was in kakuhen mode. The possible presence of senpuku kakuhen in a pachinko machine induces players to keep playing their machines even though they may still be in normal mode

In response to the incorporation of koataris into pachinko play, Japanese pachinko players have not shown any significant signs of protest. On the contrary, battle-type pachinko machines have become a major part of most parlors in Japan.


Like in all gambling, the odds of any Pachinko machine can be assumed to be in favor of the house (which is a company that could not exist otherwise). According to the law of large numbers, the individual odds of any player will inevitably tend towards these overall odds with prolonged play. So in a mathematical sense, there clearly is no winning strategy for Pachinko (see also: probability theory, determinacy); however, "winning" strategies exist in a cultural sense, e.g. in that they are traded, discussed and followed by many people.

Inside information

In Japan, many books and magazines offer advice on how to earn a living playing pachinko. The variety of help ranges from simple tips to systematically finding a way to outsmart the parlors, but it is recommended that all players develop their own personal methods for winning as nothing is guaranteed. One of the most surefire strategies is to have an inside source tell the player which pachinko machines have the highest settings. Some pachinko establishments offer such information as an incentive for joining their club membership, but it is always difficult to be able to use it to one's advantage as there is a high level of competition among fellow members to get their hands on good machines. On any given day, there is usually a long line of people waiting outside pachinko parlors hours before they are set to open. Also, given the fact that most parlors hold lotteries to see who the first hundred people to enter the parlor will be every morning, the odds of being able to get a good machine even with inside information are not so favorable.[6]

Observing trends

On a similar note, by observing trends in how particular parlors distribute good paying machines throughout their entire layout on a given day of the week, the player can make a pretty good guess at where they are when the need arises. This becomes especially vital when the player picks his or her machine at the start of the day's gambling, for, as the popularity of pachinko has rebounded somewhat since the start of the 21st century, it is often the case that all the good machines are taken just after the parlors open in the morning.[6]

The waiting game

One of the most popular and well-practiced pachinko strategies is to stay at one single machine for the entire time the parlor is open even if it is not at a high setting. The logic behind this is that although the machine the player is at may be programmed to give the player a loss of 30% over the long-run, the player should keep playing at the machine to minimize his or her losses and, maybe, if the player is lucky enough, gain a small margin of profit. As a means to demonstrate this point, it has been observed[who?] many times that in the rare instance a particular pachinko machine goes over 1000 spins without any jackpots, it usually then shortly enters into kakuhen mode if someone continues to play it (within the next few hundred spins), which can last for 5 or more jackpots. One common explanation for this phenomenon is that some parlor managers may, albeit illegally, manipulate their machines as people are using them to give them a decent amount of jackpots once they confirm that they have lost a great deal of money just so that no potential future patronage is lost. Of course, many amateur players do not have the time or financial backing to gamble in this fashion, but they may be apt to try their luck if they find a pachinko machine that has gone over 1000 spins without providing any jackpots.[6]

Selective play

Another common strategy is to only play machines that have layouts which make it relatively easy to get balls into the center gate. Thus, even though your success still depends greatly on the machine's settings, by being able to spin the digital slot machine a greater number of times with the same given amount of balls, you are giving yourself a greater chance to hit a jackpot and/or kakuhen. Evaluating the spacing and angles of the nails that formulate the pachinko machine's layout are crucial to this strategy.[6]


File:Pachinko balls.jpg

Pachinko balls

Winnings take the form of additional balls, which the player may either use to keep playing or exchange for tokens (typically slits of gold encased in plastic); vouchers; or a vast array of prizes. First, when players wish to exchange their winnings, they must call a parlor staff member by using the call button located at the top of the machine they used. The staff member will then carry the player's balls to an automated counter to verify how many they have. After recording the number of balls the player won and the number of the machine he or she used, the staff member will then give the player either a voucher or card with the number of balls inputted into it. It is this voucher or card that the player must hand in at the parlor's exchange center to get their tokens or prizes.

Some prizes are as simple as pens or cigarette lighters; others can be electronics, bicycles, 50 cc scooters or other items. Under Japanese and Taiwanese law, cash cannot be paid out directly for pachinko balls, but there is usually a small exchange center located nearby (almost always separate from the game parlor itself but sometimes in a separate unit as part of the same building) where players can conveniently exchange their winnings for cash. This is tolerated by the police because, on paper at least, the pachinko parlors that pay out goods and tokens are independent from the exchange centers that trade the tokens in for cash. Some pachinko parlors may even give out vouchers for groceries at a nearby supermarket.

In Taiwan, it is possible to exchange balls or the items you won for cash at parlors, but they only do this with frequent customers and deduct a small percentage out of the final payout and it is highly illegal. Another way pachinko players can win cash legally is by "selling" the prizes they win to a nearby associate store that acts like a pawn shop and buys the items at discount prices. For example, if you exchanged your metal ball winnings for a pack of cigarettes but you do not smoke, you can sell it to the associate store (pawn shop) at 10%-30% less its actual value. Then there is also the possibility of trading your winnings with another pachinko player and either trade or sell the balls for cash.

Variations in play

Due to the wide variety of pachinko machines and parlors, there are many different styles of play. Some pachinko parlors charge less for each ball, such as 3 yen, 2 yen, or 1 yen, but, to compensate, they often tweak their machines to make it harder to hit a jackpot. Also, some parlors may not offer a straight equal exchange from balls back into tokens or cash, instead taking out a slight percentage as part of a "bribe tax" to the police for looking the other way. The most common example of this is that some parlors offer an exchange rate of 4 yen per ball when you buy them but only provide 3.2 yen per ball when you sell them back for tokens and prizes. Also, most parlors operating a 1 yen per ball system provide only a 0.6 yen per ball exchange rate back to increase their already small rate of profit.

With regards to pachinko machines, many variations exist as well, particularly among the old-school machines. The most obvious is the range of jackpot odds among different brands. For the old-school machines, the odds can be from anywhere between 1 in 275 and 1 in 480. For the ama-deji/yu-pachi machines the odds of a jackpot range from 1 in 40 to 1 in 100.

As noted above, for the old-school pachinko machines, the chance of hitting a kakuhen on any given jackpot can be from 60% to 80%. It is often the case for machines with good odds of getting a kakuhen, typically above 60%, that the number of rounds the player gets in payout mode vary between 5 and 15, depending on the payout scheme of the pachinko machine being used. It has also become popular to design some brands of old-school machines so that they can go into kakuhen mode without any prior indication or jackpot on the digital slot machine due to a koatari. Instead, what happens is that the machine will go into kakuhen mode where you are mostly guaranteed to hit at least one jackpot.

Player etiquette

In Japan, there are many unwritten rules of conduct for players within pachinko parlors and everyone is expected to conform to them or be asked to leave that particular establishment, and, sometimes, even be put under arrest. Firstly, parlor staff members are not supposed to ever tell a player where they can exchange their tokens for cash because of legality issues, so players are expected to find out this information on their own. Next, it is taboo to ever touch another player's winnings. Additionally, players are allowed to "hold" a pachinko machine for a short period of time if they leave such personal possessions as a cell phone or a box of cigarettes in the ball tray or have loaded it with 500 yen worth of balls.

Machine manipulation by parlors

Pachinko parlors are notorious for tweaking the payout odds of their machines to get as much money from customers as possible without scaring them away. This means that all pachinko machines usually have different payout settings than what is announced by their manufacturers. The Japanese police tolerate such manipulation so long as parlors only change the machine settings outside of business hours and not during the time a customer is actually using it. It is commonly believed that pachinko machines can have one of six general settings on any given day: Level 1 (30% loss), Level 2 (15% loss), Level 3 (5% loss), Level 4 (5% gain), Level 5 (15% gain), and Level 6 (30% gain), with the "bad machines" being found in much greater number. However, many machines have been observed to have payout odds well beyond this range.

All pachinko parlors are also known for resetting their machines every morning before that day's play begins so that none of them are left in kakuhen or jitan mode from the night before. The reason this is a concern is because, as parlors strictly enforce their closing times and freeze all machines when play is to be ended, it is possible that one or more players were forced to give up their machines even though they had hit a string of jackpots. However, those who are still in payout mode when the parlor is closing down will be allowed to collect their balls for that single jackpot. Additionally, some parlors allow members to hold a particular machine after a day's play has ended so that they can continue to play them as is first thing the following morning.

What day of the week and what time of the year it is also determines how pachinko parlor will set their machines. Holidays like New Year and Tanabata are usually when most pachinko players can expect a high rate of return on their gambling investment. This is because these periods are when a huge amount of people play pachinko for leisure and the parlors are keen to attract them to come back for more in the near future when the odds are not as favorable. On the other hand, weekends are often tough for most players to profit because this is the only time when the majority of people can play pachinko.

Strategic layout is also practiced by many pachinko parlors as part of this psychological strategy of attracting players. The most common method is to set machines that are easy to view by the public outside of the parlor at an extremely high payout rate. Hence, when people walk by the parlor and see a player at this machine with a huge stack of full ball buckets, he or she will be more inclined to give the other machines in the parlor a try even though they are at lower settings. Many pachinko parlors have also been known to hire players referred to as sakura to sit at machines with extremely high payout settings and accumulate large stacks of ball buckets for this exact purpose. Of course, the sakura are later required to return these balls to the parlor management free of charge minus their wages.

Machine manipulation by customers

In Japan, it is commonplace for pachinko players to try and gain an advantage over the parlors by manipulating pachinko machines in any way possible without being caught. The most common practice is for pachinko players to intentionally jam the throttle of the pachinko machine, which controls the speed at which balls are shot into the layout, by wedging such items as coins, telephone cards, and nails into it. The purpose of this is to allow the player to not have to constantly hold the throttle at the best setting possible, as this can cause tremendous stress on one's wrist. Even though many pachinko parlors in Japan ban such a form of machine manipulation, it is rarely enforced as it is difficult for parlor staff to tell who is legitimately holding a throttle and who is just holding it to hide the fact that it has been jammed with something. Some parlors have begun to give out small cardboard chips that can be safely used for this purpose in order to prevent damage to the machines.

Another type of pachinko machine manipulation that is common in Japan is to bang or smack the machine itself, typically on the top ball tray or the front screen, when the digital slot machine is in reach mode and about to give the final outcome of that spin. While this is certainly more of a means for players to vent their excitement and frustration than anything else, a notable amount of individual machines have been known to be susceptible to give out jackpots, planned or otherwise, when treated in such a fashion. Again, all pachinko parlors in Japan ban such actions by players, but it is rarely, if ever, enforced.

Popular pachinko machines


(Left to Right) Three modern pachinko machines, Lupin the Third, Fist of the North Star, and Cutie Honey

Most pachinko machines today have a particular theme to them where they are based on some popular anime, movie, or tv show. By far, the most popular brand of pachinko machines is the Great Sea Story Series, which is produced by Sanyo Bussan. It is renowned for its relatively easy play, simple yet engaging animations, and sexy main character Marin. As of late, the Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hana no Keiji, and Hokuto no Ken series have become extremely popular. Other familiar pachinko series include Lupin the 3rd and Endless Love.


Since Japan ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, many public anti-smoking laws have been passed. In spring 2006, a number of the laws have begun to be enforced. There are preliminary discussions in the Japanese Diet to extend public smoking controls to pachinko parlors; however, no legislation has been proposed.[7] In Taiwan the pachinko parlors feature prominent and uninhibited smoking and drinking.


Children are officially not allowed inside the pachinko parlors, mainly because of alcohol and smoking (due to concerns about accidental burns rather than the effects of secondhand smoke). Children often accompany grandparents or relatives who gamble, as strict enforcement would anger customers.

There is a children's version of pachinko held at night markets and festivals in Taiwan that are home-made with plywood and nails. It uses glass marbles instead of steel balls, and one can play and redeem for toys, candy, and other prizes. This children's version is considered more like a carnival game and nowadays sophisticated electrical versions are used in arcades.

Legality and crime

In Japan, gambling within the private industry is illegal, but pachinko parlors are tacitly tolerated by the Japanese authorities as "semi-gambling" and are not categorically considered as centers of illegal activity. Any potential illegal activity is evaluated on a case by case basis. Even then, only the most obvious offenders will be shut down, such as parlors that manipulate the payout odds of their machines when they are already in use. Attitudes towards pachinko vary in Japan from being considered a way to make a living to being stigmatized.

As a gambling activity, pachinko is widely held to have links to organized crime, specifically the Yakuza. Many parlors are owned by Zainichi Koreans and pachinko profit is often sent to help fund the North Korea government.

Taiwan is another region currently undergoing a pachinko craze as it is a form of gambling that bypasses the law. Crime organizations run many Taiwanese pachinko parlors as it provides a front for loan sharking, money laundering, escort services, and is also a source of investment income.

Pachinko without gambling

Many video arcades in Japan feature new and old pachinko models. They typically offer much more play time for the money spent, and may be played using game tokens or 100 yen coins and pay out game tokens instead of balls. These tokens can not be exchanged for money and can only be used to play other games in the establishment. As many game centers are smoke-free and the gambling aspect is removed, this kind of play is popular for casual players, children, and those wanting to play in a more relaxed atmosphere. Thrifty gamblers may spend a small amount on a newly released model in such establishments to get the feel for the machine before making the investment in an actual parlor.

Pachinko machines can also be found in many Japanese variety stores, department stores, video game stores, and grocery stores on occasion. These will pay out capsules containing a prize coupon or store credit instead of being redeemable for money.

Pachinko ball designs

Pachinko balls are forbidden to be removed from a parlor to be used elsewhere. To help prevent this, many parlors will have a design or name engraved in each ball vended so that someone can be spotted carrying a tray of balls brought from the outside. This has led some to start collections of pachinko balls with various designs.

Relationship with the police

In Japan, due to its borderline legality, the pachinko industry has a close relationship with the Japanese police. In previous decades, when pachinko was accepted as a relatively harmless leisure activity, this was not the case. Currently, however, due to growing public and political pressure, Japanese police are more active in regulating parlors and they often send retired officers to become board members of pachinko companies.

As has been referred to above, at present, most pachinko parlors are required to pay an unofficial "gambling tax", which is gathered from players' winnings, as a form of bribe to the police for tolerating their what would otherwise be illegal activities. It is normally the case that the police will only shut pachinko parlors if they blatantly alter the payout odds of their machines when they are in use, or if they have been significantly altered in any way to cause gamblers to lose an intolerable amount of money, such as with the use of third-party electronic devices. Hence, unexpected raids on suspicious pachinko parlors to search for such alterations are not uncommon in Japan today.

One interesting incident that illustrates the Japanese police's high level of tolerance for the gambling that takes place in pachinko parlors occurred in 2005. In May of that year, a particular parlor in Kanagawa prefecture reported to the local police that someone had counterfeited their tokens and made off with roughly $60,000 in cash by trading them in at their nearby exchange center. However, even with such information proving that this parlor was illegally operating an exchange center, which, by law, must be an independent entity from the pachinko industry, the police did not shut them both down, but, instead, only worked to track down the thief in question.[8]


Wim Wenders' 1985 documentary Tokyo-Ga contains an extended sequence about a Pachinko parlor.


There is an active group of people in Japan and abroad who collect, tinker, tweak, and fix pachinko machines. The oldest designs had manual analog controls, but the newest have microchips and digital controls. Designs often change to suit fashion so a particular design of the past is considered valuable. Pachinko machines have been exported to many nations around the world as collector's items and for hobbyists. These machines can be played for fun, rather than for profit, in the convenience of one's home.

See also

  • Gambling in Japan
  • Bean machine - a probability device similar to Pachinko.
  • Pinball - an arcade game simiar to Pachinko.
  • Bagatelle - a French precursor to both Pinball and Pachinko.
  • Plinko - a game featured on The Price is Right similar to Pachinko.
  • Slot Machine


  1. "How the Game Works". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  2. Plotz, David (2008-11-04). "Japan Society, New York - Pachinko Nation". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  3. "A little about the machines". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Modern vs Vintage Pachinko Machines". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  5. "Electrical notes". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 手塚 理恵 Rie Teszuka (1996-04). パチンコ 釘で勝つ本. 双葉社.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. (English) Shores, Trey (2006-05-26). "A dying breed: Japan’s smokers are feeling the heat as the government slowly tackles tobacco". Metropolis. Retrieved 2006-09-12. 
  8. "Fraud Investigation: Pachinko parlor in Kawasaki loses 560 million yen due to counterfeit tokens". Shikoku News. 2005-05-16. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 

External links

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