Why Is Pachinko So Popular In Japan?

Pachinko is so popular in Japan because it is the closest Japanese can come to gambling legally. It is only legal to bet on public sports and the lottery — Other forms of gambling are banned. Essentially, pachinko allows gamblers in Japan to gamble without breaking the law.

The game also carries huge cultural significance in Japan. Japanese are proud people and they consider pachinko to be authentic Japanese.  Its celebrated and documented history goes back to the early 1920s.

Why is Pachinko Popular in Japan?

Top Reasons why Pachinko is a Sweetheart Game to Japanese

Through a legal gap, you can play it

Japan does not allow gambling with real money. However, you can still play Pachinko because of a gap in the gambling laws. Moreover, you can exchange the prices for actual cash when you finish playing. This is where nearby tuck shops come into play.

 Play Pachinko

Anyone can play the game because it is very easy

Pachinko mostly relies on luck and not on skill. Therefore, anyone can play it. Furthermore, it does not involve complicated rules and regulations for playing.

Pachinko is part of Japanese culture

It is a game that allows the residents to relax and wind down after a long day’s work. Also, it features highly in most social gatherings such as parties and family days. The Pachinko machines exist throughout Japan in high-traffic areas because of this. It is a way for people to unwind.

Pachinko machines and parlors are everywhere in Japan

Japan is a pachinko country. They’re everywhere – along major streets, in shopping malls, large buildings, and even remote areas. Recent stats show that Japan has more than 10,000 pachinko parlors. Each parlor has hundreds of pachinkos.

The most interesting part is that pachinko parlors are open 24/7 in Japan.

You can access Pachinko at a land-based venue or online. Therefore, the game continues to lure players, even those outside Japan. Besides, they have everything – relaxation zones, food, and drinks.

Pachinko is an incredibly thrilling game

Pachinko has fast gameplay in which you launch small metallic balls into the machine. The objective here is to slot the balls into certain lucrative pockets. The click-clack sounds and flashy LED light contribute to the excitement and adrenaline rush of playing pachinko. This combination makes pachinko so exciting and popular among Japanese.

Pachinko is a low-risk gambling activity

The risk of losing big in a Pachinko game is low unless a player plays for hours on end. Also, it allows you to change between machines since the balls are parlor-specific. Meaning you can use them across different machines reducing your spending on Pachinko balls.

It has a meditating effect on the player

The game acts as a form of meditation for the players. They get an effect where the game empties their minds creating the addiction. The lights, sound, and songs give the players a thrill and winning feeling even when they lose.

Pachinko Gambling

Can tourists play Pachinko?

Pachinko is very easy to play because it mostly depends on luck. After collecting enough balls, you can exchange them for rewards. However, you need to prove that you are above 18 years old to play.

How to Pachinko as a Tourist in Japan

Step #1 – Select a machine

Choose your machines carefully since each machine differs in the following:

  • payout percentages
  • Winning odds.
  • minimum bet size

Therefore, always select machines that are in line with your gambling budget. Additionally, the machines come with different patterns, sounds, and songs. As such, you can also choose one that suits your emotions of that day.

Step #2 – Start Playing

Once you identify your machine, follow these steps:

  1. Insert money into the slot of the machine.
  2. Then, push the button to receive your first set of gambling balls. Most Pachinko machines have this button on their right panels.
  3. Next, turn the knob to shoot balls. The aim is to hit the pegs located all over the Pachinko machine.

Step #3 – Winning at a Pachinko machine

One of your pachinko balls has to enter the gate to win the jackpot. Once this happens, the machine reveals three numbers on the jackpot reels. If they match, you receive the winning silver balls.

Step #4 – The Payout and Rewards

Pachinko parlors are not allowed by the Japanese law to dispense hard-cash for balls won. Instead, winners receive a ticket and tokens they can exchange for non-cash goods.

If you still want to play, you can use the balls won to continue playing. Alternatively, you can take the colored card voucher to the nearest tuck shop. This is where you can exchange the tokens for real money.

How does Pachinko gambling work?

Pachinko gambling takes place mostly in gaming centers called pachinko parlors. They boast well-dressed employees and feature multiple rows of pachinko machines.

Old-School Pachinko Machines For Beginners

Under Japanese law, playing at a pachinko parlor is not considered gambling. That is because winners are not paid cash directly for the balls they won. They can choose to receive tokens, non-cash prizes like teddy bears, or tickets. They can still redeem the stuff at tuck shops for cash. This is the loophole that Japanese use to go around the gambling laws.

You will notice that most land-based Pachinko venues have a gift shop next to them. The above is how Pachinko gambling is legal in Japan, and operators comply with the country’s anti-gambling laws.

How Pachinko Machines Work at Pachinko Parlors

  • Pachinko has an upright board similar to pinball where the balls are played
  • The player launches small steel balls into the pinball-like board. They will start bouncing off several pins and eventually land in certain pockets. The goal is to land the balls into pockets that trigger a payout.
  • If the ball drops into the winning slot, you will get more balls as payout. You can insert these balls to play again or ask for prizes.

Old-School Pachinko Machines

Modern pachinko no longer look, feel, or work like the 1950s debut versions. They have made massive strides and leaps over the decades. The first pachinkos were nothing more than mechanical slot machines. They leaned more towards old-school pinball machines.

Pachinko Parlor Machines

In those days, pachinko parlor operators regularly changed the positions of the pins inside the device to make the game more challenging and unpredictable. If you are lucky, you might find a few of these mechanical pachinkos. They are simple to play, making them a good choice for novices.

Today’s pachinkos are fully electronic. They boast flashy LCD displays with stunning graphics and well-developed symbols. Developers have incorporated new features and ideas into the modern machines.

We’re talking about koatari, jitan, and kakuhen. The latest even include minigames, jackpot systems, and several paytable modes.

We must also mention the pachislo. This is a cross-breed between a slot machine and a pachinko. Tokens take the place of beads, while joystick shooters are replaced by levers and buttons. It’s a manual stop slot, meaning you can determine when to stop the spinning.

Modern Pachinko Parlor Machines

Pachinko machine operators are all over Japan and offer a variety of machines for you to choose from. Once you identify the right one for you …

  1. Firstly, you load a ball or several balls into the game after inserting a token into the slot. You will receive the tokens from the venue operator when you mention your desire to play.
  2. Then, turn the knob to release the balls into the game area and watch as they fall through the machine.
  3. Where the balls land on the playing field will determine your session outcome. However, you can improve your chances by timing their launch.

Payout Features of a Modern Pachinko Machine


Catchers increase your chances of getting more balls, which means more payout.


Alternatively, pins throw your balls off course. Thus, it is advisable to avoid them when playing if you want to win big.


These prevent your balls from entering the catchers by redirecting their path or eliminating them from the playing field.


Pachinko machines have doors on their playing surfaces that surround the ball gates. Depending on how the doors open, a certain number of balls can pass through. As such, the more balls you manage to get through the gates, the higher your winning chances.

Modern Pachinko Machine

For example, you can win the jackpot from a single playing round if you manage to get the maximum number of balls through the doors and gates. Then, if three of them enter the jackpot reels gates, you can spin for three-line combinations of similar characters and win the corresponding jackpot.

Online Pachinko Machines

You can also play Pachinko online. Additionally, most of the top operators now offer live online casinos. As such, the experience is just as good as the physical slot machines. Furthermore, Pachinko’s global popularity continues rising because players do not have to travel far to access the machines.

How much does Japan spend on Pachinko?

Below is how much does Japan spend on Pachinko, depending on your measurement preference:

30 Trillion Yen per year

Recent statistics show that the average player will spend between 10,000 and 30,000 Yen per parlor visit. As such, Japanese gamblers spend an average of about 30 trillion Yen annually on Pachinko.

300,000 active employees

Additionally, Pachinko gambling is a huge employer, with several sources claiming it employs over 300,000 people per year.

4% of Japan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Pachinko gambling accounts for nearly 4% of Japan’s annual gross domestic product. Part of this comes from Pachinko parlors purchasing an average of 1.5 million Pachinko machines every year.

Why Pachinko Gambling is One of Japan’s Top Revenue Earners

It enjoys a legal status in a country that frowns upon gambling

Pachinko gambling is one of the gambling activities with legal status in Japan. As such, it is accessible to the masses, both residents and tourists. However, its accessibility across social classes results in gambling addiction for some. Regardless, those with the disease can satisfy their craving through Pachinko gambling without the fear of breaking the law.

See How Much Does Japan Spend On Pachinko


Pachinko has a special place in Japanese culture. That in and of itself makes it so appealing to patriotic Japanese. Most citizens start playing the game as a recreational activity from childhood. As such, it becomes a tradition that passes through the generations.

High Distribution

Pachinko parlors are everywhere in Japan. As of writing, there are more than 100,000 parlos spread across the country. Tokyo alone has 730 pachinko parlors, while Saitama and Hiroshima have 444 and 239, respectively.


Branded pachinko can help operators earn money through advertising.

What is the difference between Pinball and Pachinko?

The main difference between pinball and pachinko is in the balls. Players insert small 11-millimeter metal steel balls into the pachinko machines. The balls can be removed from the machine and rentable by the players. On the flip side, pinball balls are fixed inside the machine and larger in size.

Differences Between Pinball and Pachinko

Both pinball and pachinko use balls launched through vertical playing boards. But the differences are vast and spread across many features.

Ball Size

Pinball uses a single small ball. Pachinko involves several steel balls that are larger than the Pinball ball.


Pinball machines are in the tilt position, but Pachinko machines are in the vertical position.

Big Prize And WIn In Pachinko


Pachinko has an automatic pay-off system resembling that of a slot machine, and Pinball does not.


Pachinko has remained popular in Japan. However, Pinball continues to lose favour since the introduction of electronic games.

Getting Started

Pachinko requires you to hire balls from the parlour vendor to play. Pinball has the ball already in the machine.


Once you hit the jackpot in Pachinko, you win more balls that you can exchange for much larger rewards. Pinball does not exchange balls for prizes.


Pachinko is one of Japan’s leading annual GDP contributors. It does so through:

  • Its 60-year history of employing hundreds of thousands of Japan’s residents.
  • Japanese gamblers spend over 30 trillion Yen annually on Pachinko gambling sessions.
  • Japan’s Pachinko industry continues to advance with technology. You can now play the game online across various online live casino websites.

They include:

  • Bitcasino.io allows you to play with cryptocurrency.
  • You can access Lucky Niki across all smart devices, including mobile, computer, and smart TVs.
  • Leo Vegas, where you can also watch live streams of Pachinko gambling sessions.
New Slot Machine

Removing Balls

You can remove balls from a Pachinko machine to claim your prize. Unfortunately, Pinball does not have this feature.

Is pachinko still popular in Japan?

Yes, pachinko is still popular in Japan. It is the largest game in the country, with over 10% of adult Japanese playing it regularly. Pachinko rakes in more than $200 billion in revenue and contributes around 4% of Japan’s GDP.

What do Japanese people think about pachinko?

Japanese people think Pachinko has some historical errors. The K-drama has been criticized by the citizens for painting Japan and Japanese people in a bad light.

Is there any skill to pachinko?

Yes, there is skill in pachinko. You need skill to maneuver the levers and launch the balls to the right pockets.

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