The first time my sister and I went to Japan, we tried to play pachinko. It made absolutely no sense to us though. It was just lights flashing and noise and a heap of little metal balls we had to do something with, but we had no idea what.
For those who don't know, pachinko is a like a Japanese form of slot machines or pokies or whatever you call gambling machines. Being Japanese, it has to be way more advanced yet way more antiquated than gambling machines elsewhere. There also have to be a heap of stupid rules.
Since I was super curious, when I found out I could actually go learn to play, I was super keen. Well, you know that certain type of super keen where you decide to do something then only get around it a few months later when you're about to leave the country? Actually, that's probably as super keen as I get.
The main things about most pachinko parlours are they are super loud and super smoky. The place I went to was non-smoking though. I never knew they had non-smoking pachinko parlours in Japan. It was super loud though. You can't go to a pachinko parlour to chat with your friends, that's for sure. You have to yell and, even then, it's hard to hear.
First up though, we went to a pachinko classroom that had training machines. The girl doing the training explained how to play and we had a practice then she went into an explanation of the different probabilities with different machines. The training was fun but sometimes didn't really cover the "why" of doing things.
There are two parts to playing pachinko. First up, is the pinball type part. You have ball bearings whizzing through the machine and you have to turn a handle to get them into a little hole. Once you have the handle set so some go in, you just leave in the same position.
Then there's the slot machine type element where you get things lined up on the screen and go into jackpot mode. There are different things happen in jackpot mode depending on the type of machine.
One of the weirder things about playing pachinko is what you do after you win. You can get small prizes but, if you win big time, you get "gold". I'm not sure if it's real gold or not since I didn't win. If you do, you can sell the gold in for money. The trainer didn't go into that. I think legally she couldn't tell me about it. Anyway, the whole reason for this is to get around some 'non-gambling' legal loophole.
After the training session, we went to the actual pachinko parlour and I played for reals. The session included a 1000 yen prepaid card. I burnt though that pretty quickly.
To be honest, I don't think pachinko is for me. I kept getting confused by all the lights and noise, even after the training session. I had no idea when the machine was going into slot machine mode and if I should be doing anything, like hitting buttons. It was a lot of fun but I'm not really a gambler.
I booked my pachinko training through Voyagin (affiliate link) but I've noticed a few pachinko parlours around Tokyo have English signs up saying they welcome foreigners! I don't endorse gambling but it's a bit of fun and a new skill to learn :)