The day is drawing to a close.
Tokyo remains in a spring with blue skies and radiant sun. We wander through the streets of Shibuya. On the way home, groups of students in checkered mini-skirts and gray pullovers get lost in mischief and mischief, .
brash lolitas and gyarus glamorous pass by gray wage earners at the most crossed intersection of the world. Young people on modern bicycles advance through spaces disused by the flow and counter-flow of the crowd.
On the other side, we enter a commercial alley full of shop windows that attract teenagers thirsty for the latest fashions.
A wall decorated with posters with characters de manga and Japanese characters on yellow backgrounds. We examined the building to look something Blade Runner.
Pachinko's Noisy, Smoky and Alienating Halls
We find its main entrance, barred by a door that obeys sensors. And with a technological den, noisy and smoky. It was one of thousands of salons in pachinko that infest Japan.
Inside, dozens of souls waste hours of their lives in front of multicolored electronic aquariums in which they release glittering spheres. Most players lose track of reality and many thousands of yen.
The irony of ironies is that it all started with a simple toy.
Corinthian Bagatelle: The Amazing Western Inspiration
In 1920, the Japanese discovered an American children's game, the Corinthian Bagatelle. They created their version which they called korin moaned.
Ten years later, the contraption fell in love with the adults of Nagoya. From this city onwards, the phenomenon spread to the rest of the nation.
After World War II stopped its spread, the hobby soon returned to Japan defeated and destroyed. So, the game's prizes were valuable products on the black market, like soap and chocolate.
From Mere Pastime, to the Japanese Pachinko Salons Network
In 1948, in the same Nagoya, the first commercial halls appeared. They grouped machines that used bells to signal game states and pinball machines that projected the spheres with adjustable impacts.
These machines remained in business until the turn of the 80s. japanese electronics revolution guaranteed increasingly futuristic and seductive models.
Back in the same hall as Shibuya, serious players continue to ignore the many pleasures of the outdoors.
It is normal for them to arrive long before the opening of houses to compete for the more familiar or less sophisticated machines, which they believe they can manipulate more easily.
Japan's “Children's” Machines That Suck Adults' Life
Then they sit side by side, leg against leg. For hours on end, they suffer the digital alienation of "sea story","Star Wars" or "Mappy Park” – graphic and programming themes for games.
It's rare that they communicate with each other, or even look away. The slightest loss of concentration causes defeat in the match in which they are involved.
we would explore pachinkos in different cities. Without much knowledge, we just insert endless yen.
We get bored faster than we thought, watching the infernal spheres follow their own destiny between pins and other barriers. Contrary to what we thought, the pachinko gives us little or no control.
For the game's victims, however, the lights, the childlike sounds and the circle of the spheres prove to be hypnotic.
Pachinko: A Long Latent Social Drama
Even if the game allows maximum jackpots of 40 euros and loss rates never higher than 1.5 euros per minute, pachinko has the power to change lives. Almost always for the worse, by the way.
It is the reason why proprietary companies protect players' identities as much as possible. And because they force us into repeated cat-and-mouse exercises with their security guards in order to get decent photographs inside the salons.
We feel how many Japanese are taking refuge from the crushing pressure of their work in front of the machines. And how, after a while, they lose job after job. They ruin themselves and their families and are forced to join groups of anonymous compulsive gamblers.
Strangely enough, these are not even the most dramatic consequences. Almost every year, two or three children die from excessive heat when parents forget about them in cars after entering the halls to play "just a few minutes".
And yet, when Japanese people in general are asked about their nation's gambling habits, most simply say it's illegal or that Japanese people don't. These answers prove the degree of tolerated or camouflaged marginality of the pachinko.
In fact, Japan has ten times more gaming machines than the United States.
A Video Addiction that Ruins Families and Enriches Corporations
Thirty of its nearly 130 million inhabitants attend the salons of pachinko where they leave more than 150 billion euros every year. They cause estimated losses in the order of 40 billion euros.
Threatened by the growing video game industry and other forms of gambling, pachinko promoters and owners chose to present themselves as fun and exciting.
They even borrowed the type of characters and manga graphics that the hyper-sophisticated Japanese videogames perfected for their façade and interior decorations.
Japanese businessmen are as obsessed with money as pachinko players. They resort to even lower tricks. We even entered salons in the morning.
On these occasions, the noise of music and games is exaggerated compared to the number of customers. It didn't take long to find out that the halls continuously play a soundtrack that simulates a full house.
This song urges newcomers to stay and spend. When the various strategies work, pachinko houses are filled to capacity at a glance.
Much faster than the baskets in which bettors keep the spheres they conquer.
At spaces, we see the most experienced or lucky players get up and call officials to collect them.
These rush to satisfy the customer's wishes, dump the spheres into a counter device and bring back a receipt which the player exchanges for cash.
The Game on the Edge of Pachinko Awards
In theory, pachinko they should be just products. Each salon has its own boutique with Channel perfumes, Hello Kity alarm clocks and other almost insignificant objects, towels, pens, magazines etc – which can be exchanged for a few hundred spheres.
In reality, almost all players prefer to receive money. In order to circumvent the law, the salons created "special prizes” fictitious and worthless winners take to shadowy trading houses located nearby.
In these houses, other employees exchange the spheres for the desired Japanese cash.
The yen soon enter the machines and renew the vicious cycle of the pachinko.