lifestyle

Pachinko academy draws in students

20 Comments
By Brett Bull

A stroll around Shinjuku Station will reveal plenty of pachinko parlors emitting noises of rapidly firing steel balls to the sound of pounding dance tunes. Such clamor is music to the ears of Ei Yoshida, president of G&E Business School — a pachinko academy to learn all there is to know about what is basically an upright pinball game.

“Our students either want to change their career,” says Yoshida from his third floor office on Shinjuku-dori Avenue, “or they are already working in pachinko and need to learn more.”

Established in 2006, G&E Business School annually instructs 200 students, aged between 19 and 25, to work in this massive industry. Although it has recently been facing a downturn, the industry still remains highly dynamic.

Classes include such subjects as programming of the machines, selecting background animations, marketing and management. Live machines in rows make the classroom look like a real parlor.

“When the students are finished here,” Yoshida says, “they go on to work at companies that produce the machines or in pachinko advertising.” The G&E brochure shows photos of graduates who have moved on to such heavyweight machine manufacturers such as Sankyo and Sammy. The president who, two decades ago, worked as a low-level employee at a parlor, sees pachinko as a business that is very unique to Japan’s landscape.

“As long as the site is 50 meters away from a school or hospital,” he says, “a parlor can be established anywhere.”

To play is easy. Players turn the machine’s dial to launch dozens of balls upward. The silver spheres then tumble downward through mazes of nails and into certain slots or gates that can yield many more balls. The machines are set at one of six cycles, each of which generates a different rate of payout.

Patrons cannot convert the balls to currency inside the parlor. (Only electronics, toiletries, and other small items are available for exchange.) Obtaining cash is done via a middleman at a satellite office away from the parlor. This extra step, by law, makes this form of gambling — a word Yoshida does not prefer — technically legal.

The origins of pachinko probably date back to a horizontal board game imported by an Osaka company from the United States in 1924. In 1948, the first parlor opened in Nagoya following the enactment of the Entertainment Establishments Control Law, under which the game was classified as a form of amusement rather than gambling.

The industry employs 300,000 people at its 14,000 parlors and in 2006, generated 25 trillion yen in turnover. This figure eclipses those of the lotteries, boat racing, horse racing, and other types of gambling combined. Maruhan, Japan’s largest hall operator which also dabbles in bowling and food services, collected revenues of 1.8 trillion yen for the term ending March 31, 2008. Last year, Forbes included two pachinko company presidents, Kunio Busujima of Sankyo and Han Chang-Woo of Maruhan, in their list of “Japan’s 40 Richest.”

While the industry is a sizeable force, overall revenue is down from its peak of 30 trillion yen in 1995. Yoshida, however, does not foresee a problem. “Before, without making much effort,” he says, “a parlor could make money. But now, a person not making any effort is losing business. It’s the basics of capitalism. There is a lot of competition.”

Along these lines, the industry is attempting to rid itself of the seedy, gang-ridden reputation it has acquired over the years and woo women into its halls by providing a clean and pleasant environment. Brand-name goods are increasingly being offered as prizes, and the romantic Korean drama “Fuyu no Sonata,” a large hit with Japanese women, has had its characters appear as background images on numerous machines by maker Kyoraku in recent months.

Yoshida hopes to soon expand his school to include branches in the cities of Nagoya and Osaka. “When I started in pachinko,” he says, “people thought I was entering the world of gangsters. But this is now a legitimate business.”

Brett Bull is the editor in chief of the online magazine The Tokyo Reporter.

© Japan Inc

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


20 Comments
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I never understood the appeal of this pachinko game but that's just me.

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It would be hard for anyone to understand anything in a country they have bever visited.

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Japanese supermarkets are noisy enough. Spending 1 minute inside a pachinko parlor would drive me insane.

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Yep, inhale second hand smoke all day, go deaf, and loose a butt load of money, not thanks. Though it is probably less risky than the stock market these days.

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I had a lots and lots of uchi dome experiences in playing pachinko and converted my wins sometimes in cash ,sometimes in goods. The tricks are looking for the gaps between pins around "tulips" or "gates",and the way the small steel balls jumping around.It was good fun, but I never realised that pachinko originated from USA.

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It is a world of gangsters, gambling is illegal in Japan, the double standard in Japan in massive.

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"It is a world of gangsters,"...I don't know, it seems everybody plays pachinko in japan, from housewives, students to professors ,salarymen.It is a national good times after work.

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Patrons cannot convert the balls to currency inside the parlor. (Only electronics, toiletries, and other small items are available for exchange.) Obtaining cash is done via a middleman at a satellite office away from the parlor. This extra step, by law, makes this form of gambling — a word Yoshida does not prefer — technically legal.

So, there it is folks! The biggest scam in Japan! Therefor, the winnings and payout ratio is not legislated and the operators can do whatever they like. And, most of the profits end up in the hands of the Korean crime bosses. Pachinko is a joke!!!

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Awe...but you are all forgetting the parlor's posh "powder rooms". They are the best toilets you will find in Japan. Floor to ceiling marble and top of the line bidets!! Folks, forget those eki crappers, go Pachinko!

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A lot of the money heads to North Korea apparently too

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It is like Pinball machines constantly on and 20 in a row, when i went to work in the morning, you could see the players stand inline to get to their favorite machine

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The Pro/Serindipity - a chunk of it goes to good old kita-chousen

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Very reassuring to see that serendipity, thepro, and stanoue pointed out the elephant in the living room that the article somehow failed to mention.

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Pachinko should be barred. They send constant emails to keitais vouching for a hot machine etc. They offer free services to get just 21 year old kids back. There needs to be a whole lot more regulation and control over this industry world wide. Slot machines are everywhere and just like heroin can become an addiction easily. This area in Japan must become more regulated.

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Hmmmm. . . it all seems like harmless fun to me, a little bit of excitement in an otherwise drab and boring life, heh, plus when you think of Pachinko you can't really see somebody ruining their life on it, or at least that's what I think, personally I don't really see the appeal of it. . .

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Only in Japan would you get something as utterly insane as this. Pachinko should be banned. It has been responsible for the destruction of families and the deaths of many children, who have been abandoned while their mentally sick parents indulge in this childish and strange gambling addiction. Even the sight of a pachinko parlour makes me sick. All that smoke and noise - they must come out of it at night brain dead.

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Kawabunga:

They are the best toilets you will find in Japan

Dang, that thought never crossed my mind. I am gonna have to check out THAT action!

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"plus when you think of Pachinko you can't really see somebody ruining their life on it"

I dunno, the people who line up at 10am on a weekday to get in really make me think they're not exactly on the road to happiness

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the winnings ratios are indeed regulated like Las Vegas Slot Machines and probably much more. The Japanese police department control the ratios and update it for every new generation machine. The micro controller box (black box) is strictly regulated and everything is heavily taxed. To not regulate would mean to not know how much tax should be levied. Machines can take up to 6 months for thorough testing in the police labs before they are beta tested in the country side parlors.

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It's a fairly open secret that the money from Pachinko doesn't flow to gangsters or, for the most part, North Korea. It goes to police amakudari. Just don't say that in public in Japan.

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