A Japanese slot machine – known as a pachinko machine in Japan – is a pinball/slot hybrid game that’s been around for nearly a century. In fact, you can still find a few dozen pachinko parlors on any street in Tokyo, where hundreds of machines are packed into glitter-filled arcades. While gambling for cash is illegal in Japan, the insanely profitable pachinko industry finds ways to get around it.
The main way is by using a prize exchange system. Parlors offer special goods like cigarette lighters and ballpoint pens in exchange for the balls, which are then taken to another shop where they can be exchanged for cash. This system allows pachinko to bypass Japan’s blanket anti-gambling laws, and was formerly run by organized crime (yakuza) syndicates until the police stamped out their involvement in the 1990s.
Another way is by using a skill stop mechanism, which requires player intervention to stop the reels. While this is less common, some pachinko manufacturers are beginning to use these newer machines in their shops, which may lead to a rise in popularity for this style of machine in foreign markets.
In any case, the newer pachislo machines are fun to play, and they’re a great addition to any home bar or man cave. Just be sure to call ahead for inventory before making a purchase, and make arrangements for third party shipping or pickup if necessary.