A little about the machines, and who makes (made) them

Honestly, since these games are made in Japan, I really had a hard time finding out who made the machines. Many companies like
Nishijin and Sankyo (Sanyo) still make machines. But of course these are newer machines and are now all electronic. The company web sites are in Japanese and would take me years to decode.

The machines from the 40's - the 70's were hand made with minor aide from machine work for drilling holes and cutting wood. The quality of materials is fairly high, these machines (if from Japan) were built for daily use and abuse by the paying public. However the build quality seems to vary from model to model I was surprised at how durable and still "giving" the plastic is. I've seen plastic on $40,000 cars that are of lesser quality!

In Japan the game is still very popular and you must be 18 to play. The parlors are much like casinos here in the states. Lots of lights, sounds, and excitement! 29 million people play it each year, spending around $250 billion a year. There are around 17,000 pachinko parlors around the Japan! There are a total of four million machines. In Shibuya, the fashion district of Tokyo, Maruhan Pachinko has installed 1,100 machines on five floors to cater up to 15,000 players. Some pachinko halls provide refrigerated lockers for housewives wanting a place to put their food from shopping while they play. Others offer childcare facilities, and restaurants.

It is believed to have descended from the "Corinth Game" in Chicago, but was definitely around in Japan in the early 1920's out on the streets, not just inside casinos. "Pachin" is a Japanese word that's akin to the English "click"-the sound made by the dropping balls. Owners of parlors would "fix" machines my slightly bending pins to favor or repel balls from falling into the winning pockets. Thus some machines could have "good days", or a "bad day" the next.  

From what I can gather the "Corinth Game" was a vertical board where a ball was shot up over an arc. The ball would fall through pins, and end up in a "score" pocket in the bottom. Each pocket was worth various points. In the USA it became pinball, in Japan, pachinko.

The playing fields vary from themes of sports, to political action! The backdrops of the themes seem to be mostly pastel cartoon fish, sea life, and bright colors in crazy shapes.

I can write from personal experience that one can win more than non-cash items from Pachinko machines. When I was living in Japan in 1994, some Japanese friends took my significant other and me to a Pachinko paror. After playing for a little while, and losing quite a bit of money, we finally did something right and began to accumulate a very large collection of the small metal balls.

After the balls stopped flowing out of the machine, we were encouraged by our Japanese friends to collect our "winnings." The balls were poured into a large machine located at the end of the row of Pachinko machines to be counted. We were then handed a sheet of paper with the number of balls we had won on it and were directed to the prize counter. We handed the sheet to the woman behind the counter and two small plastic boxes were produced from some mechanical contraption built into the counter. We looked down at these two plastic containers to discover each contained a mechanical pencil; the disappointment was probably very obvious. After spending about $20 dollars in about 10 minutes playing this game and finally winning a considerable sum of metal balls, we thought we should get more than two mechanical pencils encased in plastic.

Our Japanese colleagues then dragged us outside the mall where the Pachinko parlor was located. They took us to window that had a sliding metal cover over it - this was located on the outside of the mall about a half block away from the Pachinko parlor. Our friends hit a call bell next to the window, and a woman opened the window and took our two new pencils and handed us 5000 yen - about 50 dollars at the time. We were much happier with the money, but it was pretty obvious that the Japanese had found some legal loophole to legally gamble for money.

-Midoriue 1971 -

The Corinth Game? (From my Father's toy collection, 1930)

A Classic Machine 40's Vintage

60's to 70's Vintage Machine

Typical Parlor In Japan



copyright (C) Dan Reed