Much to my surprise, I discovered upon my arrival to Japan that gambling is quite popular here. But not just any gambling, specifically Pachinko. Pachinko is kind of a mix between pinball and video slot machines. You get these metal balls and you play so that you’ll win more metal balls. But here’s the thing, in Japan, it’s actually illegal to win money gambling, so when you play Pachinko, all you can win is this ticket or something- kind of like a holder for the amount of money you’ve “won.” Then you have to take your ticket or whatever it is to another building (does this sound sketchy to you as well?) and once there, you can exchange your ticket for cash money. Its all very complicated, but Pachinko has figured out how to cheat the system, even if it’s inconvenient.
Now, here’s the thing. They have Pachinko parlors everywhere! It’s not like in the states where you can only gamble in Vegas. Okay, maybe you can gamble in a few other places, but really, why even bother if it’s not Vegas? There’s a Pachinko parlor next to our apartment, and another on my way to the train station. It’s crazy! And they’re never empty, which I can’t understand because the decorations are soo garish that I don’t know how people can stand to be in there for an extended amount of time.
Just to point out the extremely different viewpoints on gambling in America and Japan, here’s a conversation that Jen and I had the other day:
Jen: In the Pachinko parlors, you’re not allowed to eat, drink, or smoke.
Rachael: Hmm…I wonder why that is.
Jen (sounding very distressed): Because if you were then people would never leave!! They’d just stay and gamble all day and night!!
Rachael (sounding very nonchalant): Well, that’s the whole point of Vegas.