Growing up in a household where everything I owned or was given up until my first job was paid for by gambling losses, in particular losses on poker machines, I have always been supportive and intrigued by the gambling industry. This being said you won’t find me at my local pub on a friday night blowing away my weekly pay check, because I know the damages, not only financial but also physically and mentally that these machines can have on a person.
On a trip to Japan to visit my cousin in 2015 we were driving through down town Niseko, when he pointed out a building and referred to it as a Pachinko hall. A Pachinko machine is Japan’s equivalent to the poker machine. This immediately grabbed my attention given my background and familiarity with poker machines.
To distinguish my experience between the Australian poker machine and the Japanese Pachinko machine I will be using Autoethnography to understand my experience. Autoethngraphy requires one to first analyse the reading/source then go further to analyse its background/knowledge to better understand it.This is by using personal experience then comparing it to that of cultural Ellis. (2011, pt.2)
Niseko isn’t a large town by any means, with a population of only around 4,500 but on the Friday night that I visited the parlour there could’ve been easily up to 200 people playing these machines. Unable to comprehend or figure out the rules, I simply stood back and watched as the locals fed the machines with cups upon cups of silver coins.
Once I headed into Tokyo later on in the trip my cousin had instructed me to visit one of the parlours in the capital as these were on another level compared to what I’d witnessed in Niseko. It’s easy to walk straight past these halls, theres no advertising drawing you in, no big signs telling me I could win $10,000 and at most there may have been someone handing out flyers.
To understand what the inside of a Pachinko parlour looks like, the below video will gives a good indication.
What I found to be extremely concerning from a westerns point of view seems to be the lack of regulation in regards to these halls. I wasn’t asked for I.D to prove I was of age to be gambling in these halls and more frightening is what is situated across the road from these halls. Less than a 30 second walk from the Pachinko hall was a cash loan business.
Whilst I believe that everyone should be given the choice whether or not they’d like to participate in gambling activities, I’m not in favour of entrapment or taking advantage of people who are susceptible to gambling. It may just be coincidence that these credit unions are situated directly across from these halls but I find this highly doubtful.
In Japan it’s not frowned upon or illegal to drink a beer when walking down the street or when riding the train. When I asked locals about how this is allowed to occur, the common answers I was given was trust and culture. The Government trust their citizens to not take advantage of the freedoms that they’re given and in return citizens respect the law and acknowledge the freedoms that they’re given.
Secondly, within their culture it isn’t considered normal for kids under the age of 18 to want to go out and drink. Rather they’re focusing on their studies or participating in teenage activities such as sport or hanging out at the arcade. Is it for these reasons that Pachinko players are given the freedom to go and take out loans to fund their playing habit?
It could be said that Japan is one of the leading innovators in technology, surprisingly the Pachinko machines feature very minimal digital interaction. The machines feature lights, background graphics and jingles that appear through out play but there are no touch screen interactions or highly advanced technology on these machines. Instead the machines have stuck to their origins with tweaks that have simply modernised the machines.
I believe to understand Pachinko, I need to understand its origins and the culture that surrounds Pachinko. From a Westerner’s point of view, I have knowledge of the origins and culture that exist within gambling industry in Australia and therefore understand the norms and expectations that exist within the industry.
In the Pachinko parlours I was comparing my experiences to those I’d previously had in pubs and casinos in Australia and therefore had a certain expectation of what gambling should look like.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’,Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12., 1.