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Why have no COVID-19 clusters occurred in pachinko parlors?

45 Comments
By SoraNews24

Back during the first wave of COVID-19 and the state of emergency that followed, there was a lot of ruckus about pachinko parlors in particular.

For those unfamiliar, pachinko is a Japanese pastime in which little metal balls are flung through a machine into tiny holes, and depending on the holes they land in the player is rewarded with more tiny balls which can then be converted to money through a shady but semi-legal process.

Pachinko parlors tend to be very enclosed spaces due to the bright lights and deafening noise inside with players often crammed side-by-side for hours on end. So when fears of a highly contagious virus arose, many looked at these establishments with concern.

The governments of Tokyo and Osaka put considerable pressure on these businesses in particular with attempts to publicly name and shame those that remained open. Now, with the second wave in full swing, and not much being done about it, pachinko parlors are still going about their business as usual. And yet, throughout all of this, not a single COVID-19 cluster has been linked to such a place.

This has led many to wonder: Why?

When referring to COVID-19 risk, the Prime Minister’s Office recommended avoiding the “Three Cs” which are Closed spaces, Crowded places, and Close-contact settings.

Screen Shot 2020-07-25 at 13.11.36.png
Photo: PM's Office of Japan @JPN_PMO

This appears to fit the environment of a pachinko parlor to a T, but does it really?

Looking at the first C, the building code states that these places must have enough ventilation to completely change the air inside from six to 10 times per hour which pretty much puts them on par with other large public spaces like department stores. While not especially amazing, it also doesn’t really fall into the category of “poor ventilation” either.

The two other Cs seem undeniable, but what makes pachinko parlors unique is what the people inside are doing – or more importantly not doing.

Unlike restaurants and shops where people leisurely engage conversation, pachinko parlors discourage such fun as it interrupts with the pseudo-gambling. Any attempt to verbally communicate with someone inside one of these places is usually thwarted by a cacophony of clanging machines and loud music.

What’s left is rows upon rows of people staring blankly forward at their machines and barely even opening their mouths. And therein lies the secret of pachinko parlors’ success: everyone just keeping their mouths shut.

Dr Riko Muranaka, an outspoken and award-winning opponent of scientific misinformation weighed in on the matter: “Japanese people tend to be stuck on the three Cs but it has become clear around the world that the virus has difficulty spreading when no voices are made. Pachinko parlors, where people are rarely speaking, can be said to have a low risk of infection if everyone is wearing a mask.”

Pachinko fans online rejoiced at the vindication of their favorite activities, while some former critics have had a change of heart.

“I regret having attacked them for being high-risk places.”

“I think putting them side-by-side rather than facing each other helps a lot too.”

“Really, publicly announcing the open pachinko parlors’ names just advertised them anyway. So it all worked out in the end.”

“So is anyone in the media or government going to issue an apology to the industry? I doubt it.”

“They probably just didn’t test anyone in those places.”

“I wish more people read this kind of news.”

“It’s too easy how the media brainwashes everyone. Anyone can see that by not talking the disease won’t spread if they think about it.”

In the spirit of sober analysis, this news too should be taken with a grain of salt. As one comment pointed out, testing in Japan has been notoriously sketchy and the possibility exists that coronavirus clusters in pachinko parlors have occurred but were never reported.

There is also a lot of machine-touching, smoking, and snacking going on in pachinko parlors. So, while not talking does do a lot to reduce the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it. In other words, at the very least we can say that a pachinko parlor is probably more or less just as safe as a regular place of its size like a department store when it comes to COVID-19.

Source: Money Post, My Game News Flash

Read more stories fro SoraNews24.

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

-- Proposed facial recognition system would send warning emails to families of pachinko addicts

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

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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Also not mentioned is that from April 1st of this year, all pachinko parlors in Japan are smoke free, so people are not smoking and potentially passing along any body fluids as they blow out smoke.

Pachinko parlors also have their staff constantly disinfecting machines and surfaces after a customer leaves, slot machines and pachinko machines as well.

Also the coins used in slot machines are disinfected constantly, people I know who play commented that the coins are clean, compared to the past, and they smell of disinfectant as well.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

I had kinda thought that about pachinko joints, it's virtually impossible to talk in there.

Side topic but I passed a Starbucks (no dig at this particular chain) yesterday that was absolutely packed with maskless people. Of course adding alcohol makes for a more touchy experience but there are other places besides bars where people break C's.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

There is also a lot of machine-touching, smoking, and snacking going on in pachinko parlors.

Evidently the "author" here has never actually stepped into a pachinko parlor and just "reports" based off of stereotype and not fact!

As I noted, people dont smoke in pachinko parlors any more, and there is no place for "snacking" as people are either too busy putting coins into the slots, or keeping their hand on the knob for playing packinko, that you would need to have an extra hand or two to "snack" while playing!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The pachinko place near my in-laws has free massage chairs for customers needing a break. Now that smoking has been banned inside, I'll go back for a few sessions in the massage chairs.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

they can still smoke in them down here on Okinawa. Only place we can play at that is smoke free is Sunshine on hw 58.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I always thought onsens would be the first place to see clusters. Lots of hacking and coughing going on there. I went in April during the height of the first "wave" and was surprised the sauna was open too. Beginning to think spread is occurring in more confined spaces where people are together for a relatively long time. Has anyone been to an onsen lately and if so are the saunas rooms open?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

From the article: When referring to COVID-19 risk, the Prime Minister’s Office recommended avoiding the “Three Cs” which are Closed spaces, Crowded places, and Close-contact settings."

And the one "C" that embodies the 3C is Commuter Train.

During rush hours the trains are packed in highly enclosed space and there is a lot of close contact. Yes, there are the masks but masks are not foolproof.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I was livid when I saw the pachinko parlors in my neighborhood defying the request from the gov. to close. If it turns out the places are actually safe, then I bow my head.

So, who can I blame instead?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Has anyone been to an onsen lately and if so are the saunas rooms open?

Yes, and saunas are open. I wouldn't think onsens would be a vector with the amount of soap and washing going on. Saunas are too hot for the virus to survive and not many people are talking in the sauna, except for a few loud oyajis. I could be wrong though.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

A droplet is the main source of covid-19 transmission. In pachinko palours people act solo, rarely talk or interact with their neighbors. This is how pachinko differ from "hot spot" night clubs where people are very social and interactive.

And the one "C" that embodies the 3C is Commuter Train.

I think the same is true for packed trains as in pachinko. Most people wear masks and speak very little. Inside the cars it's pretty silent. Mobile phone talks are discouraged if not prohibited. There has been no big scale of spike related to commuting trains in Japan, only a few isolated cases.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Same applies for trans. Nobody is talking or smoking.

All haters of train commuting should do a dogeza now!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Trains

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

In 30 years, never been inside a pachinko parlor. They look like hell even from the outside.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Because people at the pachinko parlour are already dead. Ha.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

I was waiting for a ferry from Osaka to Oita once a long time ago and had 3 hours to burn before boarding. The only establishment around was a pachinko parlor so I tried 1000 yen of balls and incredibly won 10,000 yen. It was amazing. Went back only once and lost 4000 yen in 20 minutes and gave up the habit. It is an amazingly boring game in my opinion. However, they probably now practice social distancing between every other machine, can put up plastic barriers, wear masks and crank up the ac and air filtering.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

My theory is that your average pachinko player has the tough immunity of a gutter rat. Years of drinking and smoking and various other substances that might keep them awake..plus exposure to loud offensive pachinko parlour music, together with the blue collar shift work a lot of them do has hardened them. The virus has its work cut out with this lot.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

This sure looks like a funded Advertisement by the Pachinko Industry!!

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Just think off the lives this industry has destroyed. Gambling is never an acceptable business or life style and having it next to a primary of a high school makes it even much worse.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Forgot to mention, Studies showed COVID - 19 doesn't like smelly noisy environments, LOL

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

People are still talking about this virus? Lol what a hoax

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Also the coins used in slot machines are disinfected constantly, people I know who play commented that the coins are clean, compared to the past, and they smell of disinfectant as well.

How much did you win?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

“Yes, there are the masks but masks are not foolproof.”

50/50 at best, and all of a sudden vigorously recommended from March.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The reason why "no COVID-19 clusters occurred in pachinko parlors" (smh) is because those who frequent these places and get infected by the covid are too embarrassed to say where they have been. I am sure that there are plenty of people who have been infected from going to these places.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I am not buying this,......are they no testing at pachinko joints like there were at host\hostess joints.........didnt think so!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

they can still smoke in them down here on Okinawa. Only place we can play at that is smoke free is Sunshine on hw 58.

Guess you havent been inside a pachinko parlor in Okinawa since April 1st! They ALL are smoke free!

You are 100% wrong! As not only pachinko parlors but other establishments as well HAVE to be smoke free due to new laws that came into effect April 1st.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How much did you win?

Lol! I dont play slots anymore, got "burned" big time years back, now I stick to pachinko!

Pretty much plus/minus zero. Been playing long enough that I dont really care if I win or lose, breaking even is fine. I just like to "zombie out" once in a while, and the money really doesnt matter.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

 I am sure that there are plenty of people who have been infected from going to these places.

And you would be wrong too! There is no evidence to support your assumption!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As far as I know no one has been tested for the virus coming out or entering these joints. If they're that safe let's all go and spend our leisure time in them. Bring all your elderly relatives too.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

pachinko
0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wait, I thought masks don't work?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I enjoy a few hours every year of pachinko. It is mesmerizing watching the balls drop. Don't really care about the winnings. Back home, I'd use Skee-ball or an old video game like Space Invaders (Atari 2600 version) to "veg-out".

Good to hear they disinfect everything, including the money, and have gone smoking free. Putting 2 addictions against each other may make for slightly healthier players, assuming they don't smoke more elsewhere.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why doesn't the J government sort of ask nicely or hint or suggest to the pachinko parlours sort of close and give them a few yen to close up like the entertainment areas in Tokyo

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I suspect that the constant loud, abrasive sonic vibrations of terrible J-pop, dinging bells, clanging electronics, and all of that, combined with the massive electromagnetic field created by hundreds and hundreds of pachinko machines packed side by side, all lit up by the antiseptic glare of high powered fluorescent lights...

even coronavirus stands no chance. Between having the viral sheath pummeled by AKB48 or what have you, the electromagnetic energy penetrates the RNA of the virus and renders it inert.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@obladi yes, I’ll have to bow my head to these pachinko parlors, if indeed no clusters are really formed at any of these places. I have to take my hat off to them and say, “congratulations pachinko staff, I don’t know how you did it”.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@noriahojanen makes perfect sense, a very well reasoned argument. Because of that whole droplet point, that actually opens up a whole new list of possibilities. Someone in the comment section mentioned onsens, which have additional features, such as the hot water, as well as a lot of washing as well. In addition to not much interaction.

Now if that was the sorts of things being offered in the tourism promotion package, then I wouldn’t really be against it at all. Just saying.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Brian Wheway:

Why doesn't the J government sort of ask nicely or hint or suggest to the pachinko parlours sort of close and give them a few yen to close up like the entertainment areas in Tokyo

Why? These people are mostly harmless to others. Leave them alone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nobody actually leaves a pachinko parlor, so nobody will ever know.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

because machines does not sneeze or cough.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The reason the Government cracked down on the Pachinko Parlors is because the majority are Korean owned! Plus they get no money from the business due to loopholes so no apology is coming. Happy to hear they are now Smoke Free from April 1st. Might want to try it sometime.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Plus they get no money from the business 

And you would be dead wrong! The taxes they pay are huge. Either way the people who play, pay for it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“I am not buying this,......are they no testing at pachinko joints like there were at host\hostess joints.........didnt think so!”

I guess because of who owns them

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@socrateos, the point I was trying to make was the J government wanted hostess bars closed to slow/stop the spread of C19 virus, there are lots of people who are in close proximity to each other, and it goes for the same in pachinko parlours lots of people sitting very close to each other, I was trying to point out the inconsistency of social distancing, as for being harmless, well you could argue that its the complete opposite, as they are being irresponsible, unless they are two meters or six feet apart, and the parlours are implementing stricken cleaning of the machines after each player has left that machine thus reducing cross infections.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@vichi - I went into one, a long time ago, even tried playing the game... it's boring as hell, and rigged - yet the mugs keep playing and purport to be skillful!!

Japanese need to skill-up, and be more independent of thought... this would clearly of course, put an end to Pachinko.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

here are lots of people who are in close proximity to each other, and it goes for the same in pachinko parlours lots of people sitting very close to each other, I was trying to point out the inconsistency of social distancing, as for being harmless, well you could argue that its the complete opposite,

Pachinko parlors require masks, and they definitely aint trying to or swapping spit with the machine. Big differences, not to mention that at the clubs people are serving drinks, and passing things around.

Not the same environment. Granted the social distancing is an issue, but unless you have been in a pachinko parlor recently, you are making assumptions based upon faulty information.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“there are lots of people who are in close proximity to each other,”

The morning trains are no different?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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