Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pachinko! (And a Brief Review of Kaiji 2)

Before I know it, it is already the end of the month, and I haven't written a thing (other than the first day of the month post). So. Seriously. Busy. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the looney ice-berg. I doubt I have time to write a single post for December. So better to write something while I can.

Amidst all the craziness in November, I managed to steal in some movie time with Samurai T on his birthday. Instead of doing the high brow like visiting the ArtScience Museum for the Titantic exhibition, we decided to watch Kaiji The Gambler: Part 2, even though we did not watch Part 1, and know nothing about the manga series, other than it is in Japanese, about gambling (duh!), and acted by Tatsuya Fujiwara from Death Note.

It is a moderately interesting, occasionally head-scratching movie (probably a result of our ignorance of the background story), although Samurai confessed to falling asleep mid-way through the movie. I kept awake because I was trying to practice my Japanese (again, was not very successful), and scrutinising Fujiwara's slightly bloated face with my newly Lasiked vision. Unfortunately I do not find him hot, unlike my dear Kimura-san, but he is passable. (He was apparently in Singapore for the movie opening, but as usual, I knew of it after the fact. Sigh.)

Although he does not rock my boat, it does not mean I cannot post a gratituous pic of him. ;P

The biggest thing I remember from the movie was this SUPER extended scene of Kaiji Ito, the titular character played Fujiwara, playing a monster pachinko machine. (In my not-so-humble opinion, that scene was WAYYY too long, making a supposedly climatic scene anti-climatic in the end.)  Prior to my first visit to Japan in 2008, I have already read a number of news articles about the Japanese aunties (obasan) and uncles (ojisan) becoming addicted to this pachinko game, forsaking family and friends, and money, of course. And I thought to myself, I must check this thing out and see what the fuss is all about.

Therefore, during my visit to Shibuya on my first trip to Tokyo back in 2008, I dragged the Samurai into the first pachinko parlour I saw. And this was what we saw:

To me, it looked like rows and rows of jackpot like-machines and there was a cacophony of noises coming out of these machines, and the players looking quite zombie-like, having obviously sat there playing for God-knew-how-long. Instead of money, they had trays and trays of small steel balls next to them. I tried to figure out how the game was played, but unfortunately with my language handicap, it was all Greek to me. I mean, I never really knew how to play jackpot too.

According to Wikipedia, which I finally researched after watching Kaiji, the objective of the pachinko game was to feed the steel balls into the machine to TRY to win MORE steel balls, which at the end of the day could be exchanged for cash. The reason for using steel balls instead of cash in the game was that gambling is OUTLAWED in Japan (I learn something new every day), so those steel balls are exchanged for cash at a separate site from the parlour (probably managed by the Yakuza!). There are apparently a zillion permutations of the number of steel balls you can win, in short, it IS like a jackpot machine - but a Japanese modified version.

I almost fell asleep trying to describe what is pachinko, and hence totally fail to see why this is such an addictive activity. Give me mahjong anyday!

In  any case, the highlight of my little visit was when I saw a series of "Winter Sonata" pachinko machines. I am a fan of the Korean drama series, which had also garnered legions of Japanese fans. I used to be CRAZY over Bae Yong Jun, so it was funny to see pictures plastered all over parlour and inside the machines. I guess even the obasans need motivation to sit there for hours to play. 

 Winter Sonata Posters

A Winter Sonata themed machine.


Kunoichi said...


I came across your blog while looking for photos of Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura. :) I will be staying there while in Kyoto for hanami next year.

I have been reading your entries and they are really informative. One can never get too much of Japan once you are in love with it. This will be my third trip!

One question: my friend and I will be going to Osaka to see the Himeji-jo and I am thinking of going to Kani Doraku. Do the staff speak some English?

FatGeisha said...

Hi Kunoichi,

Glad you find my blog useful. :)

Some of the staff understand English but can't speak very well. But they get many tourists so not to worry. There are English menus!!

Enjoy your trip!