Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Japan Day 1

First Day in Tokyo...we got off the plane and into a subway. Once we got off at what we thought was our destination we realized that we were really in another country. We had no idea where to go... We booked out hotel ahead of time and were desperately looking for it when Lydia (my traveling partner) needed to smoke. In Tokyo there are designated smoking areas (its illegal to smoke on the street outside) which are filled with good looking young Japanese boys. It took us no time to play the part of innocent lost tourists. We did however finally make it to our hotel. It was a small one too. Our room had enough space for a bed and that's it. This is how small the bathroom is: we all know I am not a big person, I'm short and my limbs aren't long either. But when I was in the shower I kept hitting my arms on the walls and felt like I couldn't turn around. It was literally the tiniest place I have ever been. But it was ok, we didn't spend a lot of time there. In fact as soon as we got to our hotel we left. The first thing I noticed was the amount of vending machines everywhere. They hold all kinds of things too, but mostly cigarettes. Our first stop? The supermarket. It is just so interesting what kind of things other countries sell at the supermarket. We even found our beloved soju, the drink of Koreans. Eventually we wondered into a restaurant and order some food and of course beer! Next to us were some very 짱 (awesome) patrons. Said 짱 patrons even sent over some chicken and snacks for us to eat!
After we left that place we went to a pachinko/slots place. Pachinko is a Japanese gaming device used for amusement and gambling. A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but with no flippers and a large number of relatively small balls. The player fires a ball up into the machine, controlling only its initial speed. The ball then cascades down through a dense forest of pins. In most cases, the ball falls to the bottom and is lost, but if it instead goes into certain pockets, more balls are released as a jackpot. Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but modern ones have incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to video slot machines.
The machines are widespread in establishments called "pachinko parlors", which also often feature a number of slot machines. Pachinko parlors share the reputation of slot machine dens and casinos the world over — garish decoration; over-the-top architecture; a low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke; the constant din of the machines, music, and announcements; and flashing lights. Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable, keeping enthusiasts continuously entertained.
Because gambling for cash is illegal in Japan and Taiwan, balls won cannot be exchanged directly for cash in the parlor. Instead, the balls are exchanged for token prizes, which can then be taken outside and traded in for cash at a business that is nominally separate from the parlor, and may be run by organized crime (yakuza). I won $25 here, it was awesome!!!After that I bought a lot of delicious juice with my winnings!


jilllenz said...

I was interested to read about the vertical pinball game. We had one of these games when I was growing up. I'm not sure where it came from, but it seems like from my Grandpa Lam. But it seems more likely that it came from my Uncle Rich who was in the army and spent some time in Korea or Viet Naum. I wonder if Mom and Dad still have it.

Beautiful pictures!

Amanda Lenz said...

Hmmm, if so maybe we can bet or something and then I can win more money!!!

Alex said...

I can bet as well on these
japanese machines.