How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners



How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

Tokyo is full of chip-tune chimes and flashing lights, but the gold medal for sheer electronic exuberance belongs to the Pachinko parlor. Even from the sidewalk, it’s impossible to miss the colored strobes and pulsating J-Pop music ricocheting from within as patrons sit transfixed in front of their machines.

Have you ever wondered what exactly they are doing in there? Though more than 80 years old, Pachinko endures as one of the country’s most popular pastimes (though its popularity has dipped in recent years). Nonetheless, the inner workings of these ubiquitous entertainment centers remain a mystery to many. Let’s go inside and see what all the fuss is all about. We went to Maruhan Shinjuku Toho Building to get an inside scoop.

  • 01

    Choosing a Machine

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    Machines are sorted by price and their probability of hitting a jackpot. If you’re a beginner, we recommend heading for the one yen per ball machine.

    Even if you’re hopelessly unlucky and never hit a jackpot, you'll get a good amount of play time. Make sure you’re also choosing a machine marked with “1/99,” which means that you have a one in 99 chance of hitting the jackpot every spin. Just know that machines that the higher the odds, the less the jackpots pay out.

    Just like their pinball brethren, Pachinko machines are themed with various songs, animations, and even slight variations on how the action unfolds. Choose one that catches your eye and grab a seat. Make sure there are no little silver balls or personal effects left at the machine. This means someone is either using it, or has reserved the seat.

  • 02

    Getting Started

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    Insert your money or loaded IC card into the slots on the side of the machine. Then push the small button on the right side of the machine’s center console (called the “tamakashi button”) to receive your first set of balls.

    While pinball requires the player to pull a plunger to begin, Pachinko is played by turning a round knob located at the bottom-right of the machine. This is, arguably the only opportunity for technique: the degree to which you turn the knob determines how far your ball flies up into the playing field. Ideally, you want it to travel upwards and enter the playing field through one of the top corners, with the top left corner a recommended sweet spot of entry.

    Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll have a stream of silver balls plunking down the board in front of you, some of which will hopefully find their way into the small hole in the middle of the playing field (called the “gate”). Getting balls into the gate is what kicks Pachinko into overdrive.

  • 03


    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    When a ball enters the gate, it triggers the three jackpot reels (usually digital these days). You’re hoping that they ultimately stop on three identical numbers, which constitutes a jackpot and will reward you with scads of balls.

    Most of the time, the machine will build tension by revealing only two identical numbers, which signals “reach mode”: essentially, a way of drawing out the suspense of your near-win by pitting on-screen characters against each another in a battle for jackpot victory. Depending on the machine you’ve chosen, you're favourite anime characters, game characters, or even stars from your favorite film will appear.

    Jackpots trigger payout mode, in which additional slots open on the playing field (called “attackers”), generating exponentially more winnings when targeted successfully.

  • 04

    Collecting Your Prizes

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    How to Play Pachinko - for Beginners

    So, you’ve won buckets of tiny silver balls. What do you do now? Well, these balls can be redeemed for big prizes. Push the refund button to claim any money you have left in the machine, then push the machine’s call button to summon a staff member who will tally your winnings and generate a redeemable receipt.

    Take this receipt to the prize counter and choose from the array of goods on display. Depending on your luck, you may find yourself leaving with a handful of cheap snacks or serious prizes like brand-name electronics. In parlors like Maruhan Shinjuku Toho Building, they will give time to claim your prize before the store closes.

  • 05

    Added Value and Important Notes

    Patrons have access to plenty of amenities: at Maruhan Shinjuku Toho Building, this includes coin lockers for luggage, air conditioning, and free wifi. Some establishments also offer scented air freshener “showers” to wipe the smell of smoke from your clothes on your way out.

    Just remember that Pachinko is for adults only. You must be 18 or over to enter a parlor.

    Maruhan Shinjuku Toho Building
    Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Kabukicho 1-19-1 Shinjuku Toho Building 2F

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