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Pachinko (パ チ ン コ) is a device that can be described as a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine.

His original version would have been imported from Chicago, then capital of the pinball industry, by a retailer from Osaka at the end of the era Taishō, and gradually changed. Originally intended for children, who were playing in open-air playgrounds (roten) of Osaka’s play area Sennichimae (千 日前). Due to the success, pachinko halls are open throughout Japan, often next to a small number of slot machines.

Pachinko experienced a boom during the 1980s financial bubble. Kenkichi Nakajima, the owner of the company Heiwa Corporation, which manages 30% of pachinko halls in the country, is designated “richest man of the country” in 1989 by Nikkei Venture magazine and 11th world fortune by Fortune magazine in 1991.

Pachinko is still very popular despite the recession that occurred in Japan in the late 1990s. One of four Japanese would play regularly. In 2013 the country had about 12,000 pachinko rooms. Revenues from pachinko business totaled 24,504 billion yen in 2014. The number of pachinko business is enormous since it is the third largest economy behind Japanese restaurants entertainment and tourism. However, it is decreasing since 2005.

Rules of the game

Players buy a large number of small metal balls they insert into the machine once sat before. The only control the player has is the speed at which the balls come out. The metal balls then fall on a vertical playing surface planted with many nails, sometimes without touching them, but occasionally they fall into some holes and the machine triggers a type of slot machine having three wheels. If three identical symbols are found on the slot machine, the machine delivers a large number of balls, the player can use to continue to play or just go to the counter of prices where he can choose gifts.

The balls can be exchanged in currency according to Japanese law, but players can request to exchange at the counter against special gifts (mostly metal plates), they can then exchange in the booth near the pachinko parlor. Such practices for gambling is theoretically illegal in Japan, too, for these exchanges mainly benefit yakuza. However, no arrests for such exchanges is currently known.

Pachinko parlors are characterized by narrow alleys of flashy machinery aligned next to each other in a powerful neon lights, and the deafening and constant noise of jingles and balls thrown by the absorbed players. The machines come in various themes: anime (Evangelion, Keiji), TV series (Winter Sonata), J-Pop groups (AKB48), baseball teams, etc.

Translated from Wikipedia

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