February 19, 2006

Japan, My Japan

When you think of Japan I'm sure that either one of two different images come to mind. You might imagine a country steeped in age old culture. Of women wearing kimono sipping green tea in carefully cultivated gardens and swaggering men with topknots, of ninja flitting from rooftop to rooftop or of swordplay in the streets.
Maybe you visualize a techno-giant world of cutting edge electronics, fantastic animation, harried businessmen, women and raw fish. There is one thing that I am certain you do not think of and that's
PACHINKO (this link provides old info, but the basics are still useful).

About a gazillion people play this 'game' everyday and although I don't play that often I do find myself sauntering into the local parlor from time to time or whenever my wallet will allow.
I have learned a great deal about Japanese popular culture and history by playing different machines. The variety is incredible! You can play machines that are based on old TV shows, cartoon characters, celebrities or just about anything.

Last Saturday, after work my wife and I went out to check out some new machines. As we entered the shop we were greeted by the welcoming raucous circus-like sounds and sight of hundreds of machines playing music and flashing lights all in the attempt to lure you into sitting down. After a few bad choices we were about ¥8000 (about $70) in the hole each. I was down to my last ¥2000 so I sat down next to my lady and then, MAGIC, I hit the jackpot. I took my winnings and shared them with Crispy who was playing with an extremely melancholy expression on her face.

Who says lightning doesn't strike twice? Her machine started too pay off too!

We sat at machines that started to run like crazy. For the next 90 minutes we raked in a very happy sum of money. Well not money exactly. You win balls and then exchange the balls for chips and then exchange the chips for money. Seems silly, but that's the way they get around the gambling laws and it don't matter much when you get the cash in your hand!

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