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Pachinko - the game of a thousand balls.
Perhaps not quite as familiar as sushi or geisha girls, pachinko is just as Japanese,and probably as much fun. Pachinko houses or parlors are as common and popular as bookmaker shops in the west. Sometimes run by the local Yakuza crime operations, these gambling shops are normally located in the less salubrious parts of town. Nonetheless, the game is wildly popular and the game of a thousand shining balls is familiar to most Japanese citizens.
Unlike the one-armed bandits where players insert money into the machine, pachinko players insert tiny round silver balls. The pachinko balls are purchased from a central counter in the pachinko parlor where players are provided with a tub containing their pachinko tokens. Players normally purchase around 100 balls which costs about five US dollars.
To start the game, the player pushes a handle at the bottom of the pachinko game which feeds their pachinko balls into the machine. The balls then fall through a series of gaps in the main vertical window display. Those balls that fall all the way through a series of blocking pins trigger a spinning device in the window. When the device stops spinning, symbols are shown on a win line, just like in a regular slot machine. If the player's symbols match the winning combination, then they win extra pachinko balls. With each win, players can receive several thousand balls, which can then be taken to the central counter to be redeemed for prizes.
Payouts in regular pachinko machines can be considerable and it's not unusual to see a winner burdened down by thousands of steel balls as he makes his way back to the counter to claim his prize.