Thursday, April 21, 2005


One night a few years back I was working late and as I was leaving the building I ran into the sales boss who was also just leaving. She offered me a ride to the station but before we had gone 300 meters she's saying that she'll take me to pachinko. For those who don't know pachinko it's the predominant form of Japanese gambling. Sort of like vertical pinball machines where the object is to get the little ball bearing-like balls into a certian slot, if they go in, more balls come out. Gambling is ostensibly illegal in Japan but that doesn't seem to bother anybody.
Mostly frequented by yellow trash (the Japanese version of white trash) and gangsters (same thing?) the odds are, like most forms of gambling stacked pretty deep. I wasn't too keen to go. It's the stereotypical door to door salesman vice. Sitting there dropping 10 or 20 thousand yen trying to win back enough money to pay back there mounting debts. Besides, I only had 1000 yen (about 13dollars) on me. Not to worry, I was assured, she would lend me some. Great. I ended up borrowing 3000 yen. When the going is good and all the lights are flashing and the balls are flying out at a rapid rate it's called FEVER. A staff member comes over and puts the fever sign above your machine so everyone can gawk and express their envy. At the end of the night I had hit the fever seven times, which meant seven trays full of little balls at my feet.

Taking my balls to the counter, I'm given a bar of chocolate(?) and a number of little plastic cards. Taking them outside to an alleyway where there is a small window in the otherwise nondescript wall, I exchange my little tokens for cash. 53000 yen! That's AUD750!! for an initial outlay of 3000 yen. Unfortunately the rather large and quite frankly scary sales boss informs me that in addition to returning her 3000, I have to give her 20000, that being the amount she lost sitting next to me! I got to keep the chocolate though.

She wants to go again next week but I'm not too sure. Sure as hell looks like beginners luck to me. Plus my girlfriend at the time wouldn't have been too happy with it, her father had a little monkey on his back named pachinko when she was a kid.


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