Pachinko is the most popular leisure activity in Japan, and for some it is much more than mere recreation. Between 40 and 50 million people–roughly a quarter of the population–play pachinko at least occasionally, and as many as 30 million are avid players. For many the garish neon signs, harsh bright lights and military-style marching music at the parlors produce a hypnotic effect that temporarily relieves the various stresses of their lives. Although the gambling aspect–the chance to win a quick return on a small “investment”–is an undeniable part of the appeal for all players, for a smaller number of pachinko professionals (called pachi-puro), the game can actually yield sizable earnings.


The Ingatbola88 game itself is fairly straightforward. Customers pay for a supply of steel balls about 3/8″ in diameter which are placed into a tray and automatically propelled into the machine by turning a dial handle. The old-style machines which used a thumb-operated flipper to propel the balls are now obsolete. Modeled after an early 20th century American pinball game called Corinthian (Korinto Gemu, first imported into Japan in the 1920s), the machine has been tilted vertically so that the seated customer can play the game and view the action with minimal effort. The balls shoot up and then cascade downward through a maze of pins toward a number of open slots. When a ball goes into a scoring slot, the machine pays off–with more balls. If any balls are left at the end of a session, the player takes them back to the counter where they are counted by machine. The player then receives a slip with the amount of the winnings printed on it, and the slip can be exchanged for prizes.


The prizes given by the parlors themselves are legal and consist …