Pachinko Part 2

In my first post I spoke about my experience with Japans pachinko machines and how this experience compared to that those I’d had with Poker machines in Australia.

I spoke about how relaxed the rules regarding gambling and alcohol seemed to be in Japan and believed this to be a reflection of their culture. When I had spoken to locals regarding the visible lack of law enforcement around the pachinko parlors in particular how patrons were able to freely walk in and out with I.D being checked to prove I was of age, the locals said that its simply not in their culture for teenagers to want to go out drinking and gambling. Rather Japans teenagers want to be teenagers. They like to hang around arcades, go out for meals and put a lot of time and energy into their focus.

So to prove if these theories are correct I have conducted research to find out about the laws regarding drinking and gambling in Japan whilst also touching on youth culture.

Drinking & Gambling

Spread throughout cities in Japan there are vending machines where alcohol is easily accessible to passers by. To obtain drinks from these machines there is no proof of I.D required and they simply work like a regular vending machine. Despite these machines being readily available the main sources of alcohol of youth in Japan is from their home or from a convenient store. Even at convenient stores it is very rare for anyone to be asked for a form of I.D. It is considered that Japan is one of the safest countries ranked in the top 10 on the global peace index and it is therefore it is highly unlikely that if you’re to pass out on a train or in the street that you would be subject to violence or theft. Whilst Japans enforcement of the legal drinking age of 20 is rarely upheld, criminal acts that are caused from drinking such as a car crash etc are dealt with very harshly.

The focus of my artifact is on the pachinko machine in Japan. My lack of research in my first post looking back is now clearly evident because to my surprise, the Pachinko machine isn’t actually considered to be a form of gambling. Here’s why..

It is officially not considered gambling because Japanese laws regard pachinko as an exception to the criminal code on gambling for historical, monetary, and cultural reasons. pachinko parlours can be found all over Japan, and they are operated by private companies. As of 2011, there are about 12,480 pachinko parlors in Japan.

In pachinko, when a player’s ball makes it into a special hole to activate the slot machine and a jackpot is made, they are rewarded with more balls. Players can then exchange the balls for prizes of different value at a booth in the parlour. Money cannot be awarded at pachinko parlors as this would be in violation of the criminal code. However, players almost always exchange pachinko balls for special tokens, usually slits of gold encased in plastic, and then “sell” them at a neighboring shop for cash. Usually such shops are also owned by the parlor operators, but as long as the winners do not receive cash in the parlour, the law is not broken.

In my previous post I had mentioned about what seemed to be money lent services operating across from the parlors and in a way I was correct. However the biggest surprise to me was that the pachinko machine doesn’t fall under the classification of gambling because no money exchanges hands. This would furthermore explain why there was no one checking for I.D at the entries.

Despite pachinko not being a form of gambling do Japans youth still partake?

This a difficult question to answer and it really depends on the parlor that you visit. For the most part it is considered illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to enter these parlors, however there are some exceptions. Some parlors will allow minors to play up until 5pm as long as they are in the present of a parent or guardian.

Whilst I have been able to answer many of the questions I had for myself from my first blog post, there are still a number of questions that I believe simply can’t be answered with statistics or research. I believe the answer simply lays in their culture. In Australia it would be a given that if vending machines sold alcohol, everyone aged 13-17 would be passed out drunk every weekend. Why is it that Japan are so laid back with their regulation of alcohol and gambling, I believe part of it is that Government simply trust and respect their people to do the right thing. Both trust and respect are deeply ingrained in the Japanese culture.

Lastly I believe that the pressure placed on the youth of Japan to exceed in their education and career leaves little time for activities such as drinking and gambling. Excessive amounts of either could be considered damaging to the future of Japans youth.

The below video explains the pressure and the effects that these pressures are having on Japans teenagers.






One comment

  1. This was an enlightening post as I too have visited Japan and been baffled by Pachinko parlours too. Most times when entering one, it was usually because I had drunkenly mistaken it for an arcade of which they usually resemble. This is what makes it interesting reading your research as it too made me wonder how they prevented young people from partaking. This is something that really boils down to the kind of culture that exists in Japan, one which is very far removed from our own in Australia. One thing I felt needed mentioning however is that many of the Alcohol vending machines which I came across required a special tap card (similar to an Opal card) that would be needed in order to make a purchase. However, I too was also never carded in the country. This was a great read and should make a great final project.


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