Saitama Pachinko and Slot


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As much a Japanese cultural icon as sushi, onsens and anime, pachinko and slot parlours can be found in every city and almost every town.  Because of their brightly lit, loud and (seemingly) fun ambience, they can often be mistaken by foreigners as a type of amusement centre.  But pachinko parlours have a darker side and are a known haven for gambling addicts.  Many of these parlours also have a bad reputation for harbouring the criminal activities of Japanese crime syndicates and Yakuza.


The private world of pachinko and slot has often roused my curiosity, but I’ve always refrained from entering because I have no idea how to play these games.  

Filled with cigarette smoke and the piercing sound of tiny ball bearings ripping through hundreds of machines (anyone who has spent time in Japan will be familiar with this sound), these parlours are made up of isles filled with rows of devices similar to poker machines.  Using mechanical flippers or dials, the player fires small balls that travel through a complex maze of twists and turns.  If the balls hit a particular area, more balls will be released, resulting in a win for the player...but due to the addictive nature of this game, the balls are usually re fed back into the machine over and over again.  The primary objective of pachinko is to acquire as many balls as possible to be exchanged for prizes (which are then sold under the table for cash).


This parlour was located on a main road in a suburban area of Saitama and, Being the middle of summer, had a stifling interior with hundreds of mosquitos.  Containing about five long isles of slot machines and still having the faint lingering smell of cigarettes, this dim, poorly lit place was full of sleazy, 90's imagery.    I noted that most of the stools had been ripped out with a number of machines being smashed.   Rubbish completely filled the last isle which created a thriving eco system for a number of insects.  There was a hornets nest in the far corner.   


This was an interesting visual exposé into the world of a suburban Japanese pachinko and slot without the noise and chaos.