Last week, a friend visited Kyoto and we spent some time together. We went to Kurama and Kibune in the north of Kyoto and we went to Nara in the south. I had never been there before (and I will write a weekend post about it).

The nicest part about his visit was that I got to try a few things that I did not dare on my own. For example, we went to a Korean-style grill restaurant where we ate cow’s stomach, among other (less exotic) things. And we went to a pachinko parlour together… A pachinko place was something I always wanted to try, but the whole idea was rather daunting: The large halls with loud music, the flashy atmosphere, the unknown everything… But now I know that playing pachinko is not that big a deal, in any respect.

Pachinko machinesWhen you enter, you choose a machine and you feed it with money; bills from 1.000 – 10.000 YEN are accepted. For each yen you enter, you receive a small steel ball. You then shoot each ball into the machine where it should enter one (or more) openings at the bottom of the display. Every time you hit one of those openings, a game is played automatically, where 3 numbers should match – like at a one-armed bandit, but with the difference that you don’t have any way of influencing this part of the game. When the three numbers match, you have won a jackpot, meaning that you get more balls to play with.

Of course, this only scratches the surface of the whole pachinko idea, I am sure there is much more to it. Since we did not win any jackpot, I cannot tell you about the game in more depth; and since I don’t have the money to spend – or the need to be addicted to yet another silly game – you will need to find more information elsewhere.

What was interesting to me was the lack of control you have. Other than regulating the speed with which you shoot the little balls into the machine, there is nothing else you can do, it is indeed a game of luck. It was also interesting to see the people around us. We went on a Friday night, and there were lots of people, even those that looked very distinguished and well dressed. A friend of mine told me that many people play pachinko as a way of stress release.

We did not stay very long, only spending 1000 YEN each. But when we left, we were half deaf. The noise is incredible! Each machine has noisy programs and all of them run on full blast, regardless of whether somebody is playing or not. This is unlikely to become one of my preferred pastimes.