Pachinko (パチンコ) is probably the most-played game in Japan. It resembles a slot machine mixed with an arcade game. Even though gambling is prohibited in Japan and you can only win materialistic prizes or tokens at the Pachinko parlor, you are able to exchange those prices for money at a shop right next to the Pachinko hall. Those shops are usually run by the same owners. With this little trick, Pachinko halls trick the Japanese laws.
To play pachinko, players receive small metal balls by inserting cash or cards directly into the machine they want to play at. These balls are launched from a ball tray by pulling a lever. They then fall vertically through an array of pins, traps and other obstacles until they reach the bottom of the machine screen.
The player has a chance to win more of this “currency” if balls hit a certain place on their way through the Pachinko machine. Having more balls is considered a benefit because it allows the player to remain in the game longer and ultimately have a larger chance of winning.
The inside of Pachinko parlors is often extremely noisy. This is caused by the thousands of falling metal balls and the music played constantly by the machines.
There are hundreds of Pachinko machines, often themed after Anime or video games, with different designs, colors and even rules. Despite this variety, the basic way to play is by turning a big knob in front of the machine. This knob controls the force with which the steel balls are propelled into the maze.
You should try playing Pachinko yourself. It’s definitely a unique experience. But keep an eye on your money!