Monday, June 02, 2008

Everywhere you go in

Japan there are pachinko parlours and it's an extremely popular way of gambling. In fact you often see people queing up at ten o'clock in the morning in order to get the best machines.

Last weekend I tried pachinko for the first time, which was great fun even though I unfortunately didn't manage to win anything (in order to do so I would probably have to invest a bit more than the measly 500 yen which I spent).

The game itself is like a cross between pinball and a fruit machine. The player controls the speed of the tiny metal balls, which are thrown into the machine and the aim is to get them into holes to gain points. The more points you get, the more metal balls you win. There are even some people who play the game professionally and they are known as 'pachi-puro'.

Now because of the gambling laws in Japan, when you actually win you don't get paid in money. The steel balls which you have won are exchanged for goods in the pachinko parlour. These goods are then taken to a small window in a building or back alley next to the pachinko parlour and are exchanged for money. Even though it is illegal, this practice is completely ignored by the law.