Do you Pachinko?

So I had my first real foray into Pachinko the other night, courtesy of my host father, who ushered me in saying something to the effect of, "it's something you have to try at least once." I say my first 'real' foray, because my previous experience with Pachinko lasted a grand total of twenty seconds, which were spent without touching a machine in the following fashion:

  • seconds 1-5:  Maybe we can find the stairs in here. Hey, do you hear that? It sounds like a million angry and robotic bees.
  • seconds 6-15:  Oh my god, our oxygen has been replaced with cigarette smoke. Why are all of these machines screaming at us? What is the meaning of all of these shiny balls? Where are the stairs?
  • seconds 16-20: I think we should go. Is it just me, or are your ears bleeding too?
My impressions at that time were: 1) Pachinko is noisy, and 2) Pachinko parlour air space is 60% cancer. That's really all I could manage to glean in the few seconds which comprised our first meeting. After spending about 2 and a half hours in one, and playing at two machines, my experiences are bit more informative. Pachinko seems to be a mix of pinball machine and slot machine, but with a dash of confusion and crazy.

My first machine was a `Sea Adventure` model, which is apparently one of the easiest machines. You win easily, and you lose easily. To start, you put in your moneys. Then pinballs start spraying across the machine. You have to turn a small wheel to adjust the trajectory of these balls, which you are trying to lead into the hole labeled "Start." The game hasn`t really started until you get a ball in there. When you`ve adjusted the trajectory to a satisfactory point, you stick a 500 yen coin into the dial to hold the turn (or a folded piece of paper, if the coin is too thick). But even with the 500 yen coin there, you can`t take your had from the dial, because the machine won`t run unless stimulated by your body`s electrical energy. I guess this is to prevent people from starting entire rows of machines and running off.

Anyway, when a ball goes in the start hole, the slot-machine part starts. You get a whole  bunch of cards\numbers running across the screen, which have to line up. Half the time there`s nothing you can do about whether they line up or not; sometimes you can push a button and have the illusion that you have influence over your luck. When you win more balls will come out, which you feed back into the machine in the hopes that they will go through the start hole and get you more time to win more balls. Repetitive music plays. Lights flash. Sudden spikes in light and sound energy as well as sparkly messages (`PUSH THE BUTTON PUSH THE BUTTON`) prevent you from staring sightlessly at the endlessly revolving graphics for too long. (I have to say, when I was paying attention I was quite competitive, but half the time I sat there without realizing I had to refill the ball collector, and the game had stopped.) I must have been dazed with all the bright noisiness.

In the end my host father redeemed our points on a card, which he used to buy candy at a counter there. Really, if it weren`t so noisy and hard to breathe at times, I might go to do it again. Maybe I will stuff pachinko balls in my ears like my host father told me to (I thought he was joking so I didn`t). I think it would be fun to do with friends for a bit, but I don`t think I`d ever make it my choice for relaxation, as other people do.

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