If you’re a fan of casino games and gambling in general, you might have heard a thing or two about the pachinko game. A Japanese pinball-slot hybrid, pachinko is a unique type of game the Western world knows relatively nothing about. It’s a peculiar game just like its name, but it wasn’t just thrown out there and means nothing. As a matter of fact, pachinko has a pretty rich history behind it and a powerful meaning.
Pachinko isn’t just a new game thrown into the world of gambling. Its history goes back nearly a century, and is based on even older prototype games as well. The Japanese gaming device is not available to the West – at least there have been no real pachinko games, but we’re aiming to change that soon. We’re developing an online pachinko machine which will stay true to the original and bring the Japanese pinball-like game closer to the Western masses.
Before we do that, however, we want to breakdown the history of the game and its meaning. In this guide, we’ll tell you more about the meaning of pachinko and how it became a powerful industry in Japan.
What is Pachinko?
Japanese pachinko is a unique game played on a special device that resembles pinball in both looks and gameplay. To put it simply, it revolves around launching a metal ball or balls that go through the field of obstacles and land in designated areas for payouts. While it is often associated with gambling, it’s not recognized as a casino game by the law. That’s because of the payouts – unlike slots in the West, pachinko doesn’t issue real money prizes, but rather pays players using the balls they launch to play.
You can then exchange these balls for cash, but not in a pachinko parlor. You must take them to a separate location where they can be exchanged for cash. In this way, pachinko overcomes legal obstacles and stays under the government’s gambling radar.
The arcade game looks pretty familiar to pinball machines. The lights and sounds are similar too, but much more pronounced in pachinko. These games are only available in special pachinko parlors. Think of them as casinos with thousands of slots, except these locations are not designated as gambling venues.
There’s a pachinko parlor in any city and town in Japan. The true number is not precise, but it’s surely over 10,000. A good parlor will have thousands of these machines set in rows, allowing hundreds of players to enjoy the game at the same time.
Etymology – How Did the Name Came to Be?
You know the sound of coins clanking in Vegas casinos? It’s a unique sound that you can hear in your head even if you’ve never played it. It reminds us of prizes and wealth, and a player can win huge rewards for sure in the best Vegas casinos. Due to the fact that it’s played with small metal balls, pachinko’s game is a direct connection to the sound they make.
Visit Tokyo or any other big city in Japan and you can’t miss pachinko. The flashing lights and the sound the machines make are simply too much to ignore. The sound the machines produce is known as ‘pachin’ in Japanese. Among players, though, its usually pronounced with the suffix ‘ko’, which means ‘tiny and small’.
What Does Pachinko Mean?
As mentioned earlier, the name is directly linked to the characteristic sound the metal balls travelling through the field make. The suffix ‘ko’ is tied to the small metal balls used in the machine which are also responsible for the sound.
The pachinko meaning can loosely be translated as small clanking sound, which is how we can easily define pachinko. Originally, the game was invented some time during the 1920s and is based on a children’s toy called “Corinth game”, which itself is based on the American “Corinthian bagatelle”.
While it was based on a children’s toy, pachinko’s meaning goes way beyond it. In the decades that follow, it established itself as the premium source of entertainment, although not without legal and social issues. Still, nearly a century after the first release, pachinko is still going strong, and the industry isn’t set to stop anytime soon.
What Does Pachinko Mean for Japan?
There’s no question that pachinko bears a rich cultural significance for Japan and Korea. Once considered a game for outlaws and rejects, pachinko rebuilt its image after the 1950s. It struck the right chord in the 1970s and beyond, and with a few obstacles overcome, it became what it is today.
While not all Japanese are fond of pachinko parlors, it remains a fact that the game is tied to the country’s heritage. Pachinko parlors are among the most visited objects in Japan, both from tourists and the local population. That has brought plenty of problems by itself, but still, players can’t stop playing the game.
Pachinko is not that much of a game in Japan, but a real phenomenon. As soon as the parlors open in the morning, there are queues of people waiting to start playing. The youth today have a much more different idea of entertainment than in the past. They’d rather risk their money on pachinko and hit a big score than go out on dinner or go to the movies. That’s a big factor that plays into pachinko’s immense popularity, and as things stand now, it won’t change soon.
In order to define pachinko, one needs to go through its history and check out parlors. If you’ve never played it and you’re in Japan, you’re missing out on a thrilling game. It might not be what you expect as pachinko is different from casino games in the West. However, fans of pinball and slots will surely have a great time with it.
Pachinko is part of Japan’s rich history and no matter how much the government is trying to erase that, it will never set roots. Pachinko is here to stay and is part of Japan’s history like it or not. As long as it gives players the chance to win big, it will always win.