America’s economic boom in the 1920s meant that the average family had significantly more disposable income than during the war years – and savvy toy makers were busy coming up with new ways to get their share.
In Chicago, one manufacturer happened upon the idea would eventually become Pachinko: a children’s version of Bagatelle – called ‘The Corinth Game’ – which used small metal balls, and a spring-loaded plunger in place of a cue. It also introduced the ramps and rails we see in modern day pachinko – in a bid to make the game more of a challenge.
By the mid 1920s the Corinth Game had found it’s way to Japan, and became a mainstay of the sweet shop – with games on store counters, played by children hoping to win candy. The translated name of ‘Korinto Gemu’ didn’t take though. Instead, these games became known an ‘Pachi Pachi’ – a reference to the sound made by the balls bouncing around the machine.
Japanese businessman Masamura Takeuchi saw the success of these games, and realised there was potential to create a game that would be just as popular with adults.
In his machine, he arranged the pins deliberately, rather than randomly, in order to turn this into a game of skill. He also took influence from a British game called the Circle of Pleasure – making the game upright, instead of flat.
These early Pachinko machines gave players a token each time a ball was landed in the right hole – although it wasn’t long before the balls themselves were used for keeping score.
The game became an overnight success – quickly spreading from Takeuchi’s home city of Nagoya, right across Japan.