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For shame: Why were people so hard on pachinko businesses that stayed open?

18 Comments
Photo: Photo: Wikipedia/Tischbeinahe

Among the types of businesses that were requested to shut their doors due to the high risk of cluster infections of the coronavirus were pachinko parlors. At a press conference on May 13, however, the Tokyo Medical Association backtracked on its earlier opinions, posting a retraction and apology. 

"At this point in time," read the statement, "there have been no reports of cluster infections at pachinko parlors. These were lumped together with other types of business...We regret this mistake and offer our apologies for any inconveniences caused." 

But the damage had been done. A small number of parlors that failed to comply with the request to close voluntarily were specifically singled out for public shaming, first by the Osaka governor, and then in Fukuoka, Aichi, Tokyo and other prefectures. 

These acts, considered quite extreme by Japanese standards, received heavy media coverage such as on afternoon TV "wide show" programs, where attorney Hideki Yashiro went so far as to blurt out accusatory comments like, "Pachinko parlors that don't close are, in a sense, stooges for antisocial groups." 

The chorus of attacks notwithstanding, Nikkan Gendai (May 19) notes that the percentage of pachinko parlors that closed was actually higher than those of other types of businesses. 

"During the Golden Week period, of 8,300 pachinko parlors, 8,196 closed, a ratio of 98.7%," said Takashi Kiso, director of the International Casino Research Institute. Pachinko, among the various business groups, had an extremely high ratio of closures. They responded energetically to the call for self-imposed restraints." 

A factor behind the shaming may relate to appeals to people's emotions. The pachinko industry has a bad reputation and has long been on the receiving end of bias, with some people spreading the word via the internet that "pachinko exploits people with a gambling dependency and some shops remit their earnings to North Korea." 

A survey by the University of Tokyo's Global Center of Excellence (COE) found that out of 1,548 pachinko halls, 37% had Korean backgrounds -- considerably lower than the 70% figure that has long been bandied about in the past. 

"I can't rule out that some of the money might have been remitted to North Korea via China, but Japan's law regulating foreign exchange transactions would have put a stop to it," journalist Hayato Nakamori is quoted as saying. "The criticisms that pachinko parlors are dominated by Zainichi Koreans is mostly being perpetrated by the alt-right." 

Nikkan Gendai also looked at the issue of "pachinko dependency." 

A survey of people outside their homes during the voluntary stay-home period following the emergency declaration on April 7, conducted by Hoken ROOM, found that only 2.2% of respondents said they went out to play pachinko. That figure that roughly corresponded to the number of shops that remained open. 

According to the Japan Productivity Center's White Paper on Leisure (for 2018), the average gross margin for pachinko parlors was 16.3%. On the average, customers left the shop 467 yen poorer. Why do people go then, if the chances of winning a premium are so low? Well, contrast that with a chuhai cocktail that sells for 100 yen at a supermarket but is marked up to around 350 yen at an izakaya. As opposed to drinking home alone, it seems worth it to pay a little more for the enjoyable atmosphere and to kill time.

Some accusations also surfaced that people who indulge in pachinko are "illegal gamblers." Is there any truth to this? During debate on the floor of the Diet, it was pointed out that pachinko parlor operations are controlled by Article 2, Clause 1.4 of the law governing public morals, and not Article 185 in the Criminal Code (concerning illegal gambling). Unless the government chooses to enforce pachinko under a different statute than the present one, it is not a form of illegal gambling. 

"While I don't think it it's likely that more people would be attracted to casinos if they could no longer play pachinko, it's not out of the question that the government's picking on the pachinko industry will feed bias among the public, perhaps as a way of encouraging them to let off steam," Kiso remarked. 

When politicians are under the gun, observed Nikkan Gendai, it's common to see them attempt to deflect criticism by looking for scapegoats. People need to stay alerted to things that look suspicious.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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"During the Golden Week period, of 8,300 pachinko parlors, 8,196 closed, a ratio of 98.7%,"

There are three giant pachinko parlors in my town. None of them were closed making it a ration of 0%.

Almost all outdoor and fresh-air activities and parking on big wide open natural coastlines, rivers, and mountains were closed.

While pachinko parlors with everyone sitting close together in an enclosed space touching the same knobs and things had dozens of people packed in.

That's why people were pissed off and targeted pachinko parlors in my area.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Instead of asking why pachinko parlors remain open, how about asking why outdoor establishments were closed. It's okay to party at an Izakaya until 8pm but not okay to have a small BBQ outside. It's okay to keep home centers and supermarkets open where more that 100 people gather in a closed space at one time but a luxury stores and small shops that has 10 - 20 people in it at one time can't open. And keep in mind that products in the luxury and small shops are not handled as much. I can go on with comparisons but I'm sure you get the idea.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

What a bizarre article. We are supposed to feel sorry for pachinko parlor owners? What next? The hard life of the downtrodden loansharks? The oppressed people who made billions by selling cigarettes to the masses?

People choose to make a living from addictive and destructive behavior, bringing sordid customers and marginal criminals into an otherwise nice neighborhood. And now we are supposed to like them?

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Funny, no by line. Must be a pachi-pro writing this kuchikomi. What a waste of money pachinko is. It’s also not healthy: smoke filled and incredible noise. Regardless, other shops had to close. Am I supposed to feel sorry that pachinkos had to shut? Let’s next feel sorry for the overworked hospitals and morticians because people failed to think of the doctors that had to deal with their careless patients.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

To see the Tokyo Medical Association issuing a retraction and apology in this manner is quite remarkable. I wonder what sort of pressure was applied, and on whom.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

NCIS Reruns,

the pressure was probably "tax-based"?

Guess the municipalities as well as the government get quite some (tax-) money from the pachi-pachi business!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I would gladly see these places never reopen in my neighbourhood.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This article brought to you by the Pachinko industry of Japan!

I’m surprised they didn’t tell us that they also rescue puppies and donate a percentage of their earnings to orphans!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Why are Pachinko parlors even allowed to exist? In a country where "gambling" is prohibited on everything from Mahjong games to Baseball games, these Pachino Parlors contine by using the loophole of giving out products as winning, which the customers quickly convert to cash. Who owns these Pachiko Parlors? Yakuza families? The North Koreans? How much money is being passed under the table to keep these places open?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

To see the Tokyo Medical Association issuing a retraction and apology in this manner is quite remarkable. I wonder what sort of pressure was applied, and on whom.

the pressure was probably "tax-based"?

I'd say the pressure was more likely kneecap-based.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A friend of mine, an elementary school mathematics teacher, had been a pachinko-holic for years. He knows it's bad and is trying his best to quit. Many very intelligent, successful people are nonetheless susceptible to some sort of addiction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They are such an eyesore. There is so many things Japan can do and do better they could build a Vegas style city with real casinos and not have these stupid pachinko parlors set up and just wasting peoples time and lives, at least in Las Vegas you have all kinds of entertainment, restaurants, malls, but pachinko parlors they do nothing, they are like so many liquor stores where they bring in nothing but desperate gamblers and it’s a huge distraction as well as an addiction.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yes, they're run by yakuza and also by Koreans. Their staying open (the ones that did) was -purely- money motivated, with zero concern for people's health. Given the very close proximity of seats, row after row, they should have been forced to close during the State of Emergency. Geeez, if anyone could weather the shutdown period without suffering much/any financial stress, it would be the thugs who own/run pachinko shops.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"For shame: Why were people so hard on pachinko businesses that stayed open?"

Maybe because social distancing is effective? And that pachinko parlors are anything but there?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

commandeer: People choose to make a living from addictive and destructive behavior, bringing sordid customers and marginal criminals into an otherwise nice neighborhood. And now we are supposed to like them?

Someone feels superior to the lesser people in society. I guess some aren’t allowed to make free choices in their lives and partake in a legal activity.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

aomorisamurai: Maybe because social distancing is effective? And that pachinko parlors are anything but there?

Yet somehow “science” was wrong about pachinko parlors - the Tokyo Medical Association. How can that be?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

WTF was the purpose of this article, other than evangelizing pachinko and trying to defend pachinko parlors that violated the SOE statute and stayed open?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yet somehow “science” was wrong about pachinko parlors - the Tokyo Medical Association. How can that be?

Yes, it is interesting. I think the TMA and many other professional bodies knew so little about how this virus got transmitted that they went for this blanket ban everywhere. Not saying that that was the wrong course of action, especially if you do not understand something it could be better to be safe than sorry, but it does raise the question of what the main method of transmission of this virus is. Personally I think the 2 metre rule is almost ridiculous, I wouldn't stand in front of someone with the virus for a second even 2 metres away, but I wouldn't be too bothered about walking past them quickly. Perhaps if anything it's just awareness of other people and their health which is needed. If someone you're talking to has a bad cough, by itself, then move away and they should isolate, whereas previously you probably wouldn't be too bothered even if you did catch a cold off them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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