Photo: Wikipedia/Tischbeinahe

Is pachinko headed for extinction in Japan? Studies reveal huge drop in players, hall operators

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood of Yokohama for more than a decade now, and right across the street from my train station is a pachinko parlor. I’ve never gone inside, and a recent study suggests that I’m not the only one for whom the allure of bouncing metal balls holds no strong allure.

The Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute recently released the results of its analysis of the pachinko industry, and some of the numbers don’t look so good . At the end of last December, researchers counted 10,258 pachinko halls in Japan, and while that’s definitely a lot, that’s how many were left over after 420 shut down during the year, meaning that roughly one in 25 pachinko halls closed their doors for good in 2017.

Even more startling is that 177 companies that manage pachinko parlors went out of business in 2017, with the remaining 3,244 meaning there was more than a five-percent mortality rate for pachinko operators during the year.

▼ A pachinko parlor advertises its batch of newly installed machines.


So what’s causing the drops? One thing researchers point to is the rapidly expanding number of entertainment options that people in Japan have access to. While the country was slow to embrace Internet surfing via PCs, smartphones have quickly become the norm, providing people anywhere in the country access to a nearly unlimited amount of reading material, video content, and games. This especially changes the entertainment landscape in rural areas, where massive pachinko halls used to often be just about the only leisure providers to be found.

There’s also the fact that no matter how many anime and video game franchises pachinko machine manufacturers license in an attempt to appeal to those hobbies’ younger fan bases, pachinko is widely seen as the pastime of stodgy middle-aged and older men. Japanese survey site Shirabee asked 235 men and women, all who said they enjoyed gambling, whether or not they felt like the money they’d spent on pachinko and other games of chance had been a waste, and 62.5 percent of respondents in their 20s said it had been, as did 63.1 percent of those in their 30s. Those numbers contrast with 48.8 percent of respondents in their 40s, 54.3 percent of those in their 50s, and just 46.5 percent of those 60 and above.

That gap in attitudes suggests that convincing younger Japanese people that sitting in a pachinko parlor is a fun way to spend the day is an uphill battle. Granted, some would argue that all of the randomized loot box micro-transactions of wildly successful smartphone games are just as much a form of gambling as pachinko, but others would counter that at least in that case, the buyer knows he’s going to get some sort of video game goodies, whereas an unsuccessful pachinko session will leave you without even enough balls to trade in for a box of crackers, let alone the trinkets that you can secretly exchange for cash around the corner.

With more than 10,000 halls still left, it’s not like pachinko is going to disappear overnight. However, it’s estimated that the number of active pachinko players in Japan has dropped from 30 million in 1994 to just 9.4 million now, and if that trend continues, pachinko parlors might meet the same fate as sento (public baths), going from a ubiquitous part of Japanese cityscapes to a legitimate rarity.

Sources: Niconico News via Jin, Gambling Journal

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Nearly five percent of Japanese are addicted to gambling – even though it’s still “illegal”

-- Pachinko parlor worker lists the three worst types of customers in Japan’s gambling dens

-- Angry customer smashes pachinko machines with hammer 【Video】

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Good! The buildings are garish and they take up prime real estate everywhere. I hope they're all replaced with Gyoza Osho, CoCoIchibanya restaurants and parks.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Had a couple close in my neighbourhood in the last 5 yeears. I hope they all close.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They also use an astounding amount of electricity, a single parlour uses about foiur times as much as Tokyo Sky Tree.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've suspected this for a while. Glad to hear it is true.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Dang. A Japanese icon going byebye. Too bad.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My next door neighbour 10 years ago - a nice guy - played pachinko often and never missed a Sunday session at the nearby parlour.

We talked about it sometimes and I said I don't like noisy smoky places. He said his place was not so bad and it was smaller and friendly. He invited me but I just didn't have any interest at all. I was stuck so I had to pull out my trump card. I said I don't want to give money to North Korea or money to an industry that does.. He looked a little puzzled. Then I said most (not all - most) Pachinko Parlours are owned / operated by those with NK connections and pachinko revenue is vital hard currency for the regime. It's not a secret.

He never asked me again.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I loved pachinko as a kid. I do not understand the adult fascination with it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Great news! Go home and play with your kids. What an asinine waste of money.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Once, at the behest of my father-in-law. Second-hand smoke, incessant noise, blaring martial music, mindless repetitition, wasted time, wasted money - how did it ever catch on in the first place?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hopefully, yes. It's moronic, noisy, full of cigarette smoke and is a massive waste of time, real estate and electricity. You need more reasons - I got 'em...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Aside from the problems caused by gambling addictions, pachinko parlors are the ugliest part of Japan. There's nothing worse than visiting small, quaint mountain towns with mom-and-pop noodle shops...and a huge, monstrous pachinko parlor with lights and music that completely ruins the atmosphere of everything around it. I wish there were stricter ordinances dictating how these buildings can detract from an area's atmosphere.

That said, I'm hesitant to celebrate the death of pachinko just yet. There are not one, not two, but three huge ones within a 2-minute's walk from my apartment, and the line of people waiting to get in each morning stretches all the way down the street. It's astonishing. And disgusting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In 25 years I've never been inside one. When I sometimes walk past and the doors open, wind shoots out, blasting audio rape, flashing lights, clouds of tobacco smoke, I look in for a single moment and think to myself, if there's a hell, that's what it would be like.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm fortunate to live in an area with no pachinko parlours. I think the city has actually regulated against them but don't quote me on that.

All the neighbouring towns have them though I have seen several close down recently.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

boo boo... the illegal gambling houses are closing!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One just opened in my area not long ago, the size of a supermarket. In fact, I thought it was a supermarket at first glance because of the lack of neon and such.

It's practically across the street from a huge garish one. And, none in the area have closed, as far as I've seen. They seem to be doing okay in my nape of the neck of the woods.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I hope it's true, but a brand new one opened on the main road near me recently and an existing one expanded, so business must still be good around here. Every time new prime real estate becomes available I breathe a sigh of relief when it's NOT a pachinko parlour. The people coming out of them to make a phone call mid-play don't look happy either most of the time. I guess it's an addiction just like any other.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One person's hell is another person's heaven. Check out the play, "Sauna"

I think numbers are dropping because lots of Pachinko places now are becoming smoke free as they seem to be more concerned about their clients health which is a very good sign.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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