Near every train station in nearly every urban area of Japan, you will find a pachinko parlour. It is usually the gaudiest building in the street and as bright as daylight (which is why I could shoot this without a tripod). A pachinko machine is a cross between a slot machine and a pinball machine, and in Japan it is very big business.
According to Japan-Zone.com, the pachinko business employs a third of a million people, three times more than the steel industry; it commands 40 percent of Japan's leisure industry, and with 30 million regular enthusiasts coughing up more 30 trillion yen a year (a higher turnover than the car industry), it's big business indeed.
As soon as you step up to a pachinko parlour, the electric doors slide open, and the noise hits you (and the smell of cigarette smoke as well). The wall of noise seems to help the serious gamblers to switch off as they sit in silence in front of their chosen machines. Sometimes they're there all day - it's common to see people lining up outside a parlour first thing in the morning, waiting to get the machine they think is going to pay up, and almost as common to see them come out in the evening having won - or lost - a day's pay or more.
To play pachinko you buy a tray of small steel balls, resembling ball bearings – you can see the trays of balls on the floor behind the gamblers in the interior shot that I have posted to the WS. You pay about 4 yen per ball and while you can buy just 100 yen's worth, no serious gambler would start by spending less than a few thousand yen.
Pachinko is played on what looks like a vertical pinball machine. The steel balls are released into the machine and fall through a maze of nail-like pins. The idea is to get the balls to fall into slots where they accumulate and to aim for jackpots, which pay out thousands more balls.
Parlours are not legally allowed to pay out cash. So you take your trays of balls and exchange them for prizes like washing powder, cigarettes and branded goods, or tokens that can be cashed in at a nearby hole-in-the-wall. These places then sell the tokens back to the parlour, with their cut on top.
The interior shot of the pachinko parlour that I have posted to the Workshop was not easy to get. It is the interior of the parlour on the left of this street. The doorman kept waving me away when I tried to take a photograph inside, so I hid behind the flowers on the opposite side of the street (the flowers signify the opening of another pachinko parlour) and made out I was taking a close-up of the flowers (with a 200mm lens!) and waited for the electric doors to open across the street when somebody walked out. The doors opened for only a few seconds, and people kept walking in front of them, so it was hard to get a clear view, but after 12 attempts I got the shot you see in the WS.
Critiques | Translate
kri54 (1515) 2007-03-18 12:07
photo très dynamique, très beau contraste entre les lumièrs et couleurs de l'avant plan et la nuit en arrière plan, les arrondis à droite et la ligne droite à gauche, même les personnages semblent appartenir à 2 mondes différents, bravo David
Brian (3) 2007-03-18 12:52
Nice wide shot of the street with all of the vibrant colors and lights. I never really know what pachinko was until now.. Very interesting. Reminds me of the boardwalk in New Jersey where they have all sorts of games where you win prizes and stuff. Most of it is junk of course. Huge business there indeed!
kevinos (7507) 2007-03-18 12:53
Yes, those bright lights and gaudy colour with the dark sky produce quite a surreal effect, David. You have an interesting collection of actions frozen in mid action. The look like they are trapped in a tunnel. It's a really fun picture. Regards kevin
pboehringer (770) 2007-03-19 10:39
Oh, David, this is not starting to be interesting. You're invading Norbert's (nwoehnl) territory. I hope to see many other Japan pictures from you. This one promises a lot of interesting ones. The colorful sides of the street and the laughs and giggles of these ladies is contagious. Interesting the contrast of colors. On one side the comics and on the other the flowers.
acordeiro (155) 2007-03-19 11:26
Bom nocturno...registo habitual do dia a dia , côres lindas
ktanska (26359) 2007-03-20 4:49
Excellent wide angle shot. I like the colours of ads and flowers, relative peacefulness of the narrow streets and the women that are perfectly placed.
Thanks for explaining pachinko. I tried one of those machines. Just with a small change, watched the balls flying for a while, understood nothing about what was going on, got bored before the machine did, and left it playing by itself.
riclopes (35577) 2007-03-22 14:04
What a crazy world, David. Japan must be quite a cultural shock. I think that their society is the most distant one from human nature. They must be a kind of alien species - may be more than China and China was very close to an alien encounter.
Excellent note and great wide perspective of this colorful and very iluminated street. These women are for sure a great addition here. The closer one was caught in a really funny moment. The WS is a very successful shot considering the conditions - very impressive atmosphere and repetition effect, but I guess it's the same in every casinos on the world. Humans are very prone to adiction. I am adicted to TE, for example ;-)
orme (7215) 2007-03-23 1:54
Both your photo and the note are excellent here, David. This shot makes me want to see Toyko even more. I like how the colourful street scene contrasts with the cold dark night sky. Well captured.
Galeota (10338) 2007-03-24 11:25
Hello David, I've just spent half an hour browsing your gallery and enjoying the vistas, while thinking how much I would like to be in your place to travel so extensively and to so many incredible destinations. What an incredibly rich life you much have as far as reaching out for other cultures and people. Very nice use of the wide angle; love this street scene with the huge Manga boards on the facades.
colinbrenchley (6431) 2007-03-25 8:24
David. Good capture and good notes. We are visiting Japan in September and TE is just great for that bit of research from the photographers point of view. Thanks for posting this slice of daily life.
vincz (19113) 2007-03-26 5:04
Very nice shot, very lively with beautiful colours. The choice of the wide angle was smart. Great job here!
PixelTerror (0) 2007-03-28 15:43
Pachinkos indeed set an atmosphere in the places where there are located, I like here the fitting bright atmosphere of your shot and the balance and funadded by the two girls
Have a nice day JY
capthaddock (28790) 2007-03-31 21:02
Hi David - all the essence of a japanese urban evening is here, and the exposure level even on the lights is excellent, I like how the relatively quick exposure (for a night shot) managed to freeze the people while keeping the street well lit.
Didi (59678) 2007-04-07 11:35
Very nice night shot with a very good management of the exposure and it's not so easy to do it.
chaity (1539) 2007-04-11 8:32
Hi David, just to love look at the colorful and sharp night photo shoot without tripod ! Good composure with the ladies and people walking around to portray the busy street. I am sure it will be busier in those Pachinko parlour. 8-)
sarju (5324) 2007-04-30 10:53
Cigarette smoke inside a building seems to thing of the past to my Canadian mind. Again very nice shot accompanied by a good note.
Cheers .... Sarju
PS: In Canada, smoking is prohibited in all the buildings ... restaurants, work places ... even a lot of apartment buildings ... to smoke one has to go out .. walk 9 meters from the door of the building and than smoke in the open .... not really much fun in the winters .... Sometime i feel sorry for the European and American people flying through canada ... as they basically can't smoke over here (No smoking areas in this country) ... but than looking at your awareness .. I think you might have known about it ... Cheers ..
balatrek (7455) 2007-05-03 6:09
A simple and daily scene, but full of force and a fantastic naturalness, the depth and the perspective are correct, I like the smoothness of the light and the colours, you were able to create a beautiful atmosphere, congratulations and thanks to share.
euryan (8440) 2007-05-15 12:39
Great note. I'll never forget seeing all those Pachinko parlors when I was in Japan. I can't really understand the allure. They drive me nuts. Anyway nice shot. I'll be adding it to my McDonalds theme.
- Copyright: David Astley (banyanman) (7789)
- Genre: Places
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2007-03-16
- Categories: Daily Life
- Camera: Nikon D100, Nikkor AF-S 12-24mm f/4G ED
- Exposure: f/4.5, 1/80 seconds
- Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
- Theme(s): McDonalds, les ambiances [view contributor(s)]
- Date Submitted: 2007-03-18 12:03