I was told today that the Japanese spend £250bn a year playing Pachinko. Wow. I was also told that’s around the same as the UK government spend on Healthcare and Education combined. Ridiculous. Then i realised that I had absolutely no idea what Pachinko was – and if i was going to keep being so shocked by the stats, i should probably find out.

In my quest to understand just what it is that’s got them going so crazy in Kawasaki (yes – it’s a city as well as a motorbike!) i stumbled across this video of two Australians playing on what i can only describe as a cross between a slot machine, a video game, a pinball machine, and that ‘coin pusher’ game you always used to find in the arcades at the seaside.

Just like the coin-pusher (as it will now, forever, be known) – the aim of this Japanese slot game seems to be to drop coins onto a moving shelf, which then hopefully push other coins off that shelf. If we were on Brighton Pier, that’s where the game would end – and we’d all go home happy. But here, when the coins go over the edge, the slot machine starts up. And from there, it all starts to get pretty intense.

At first, the slot machine seemed insistent upon teasing these two guys – they were begging for an 8, so they almost do, but end up with a 9. At one point, they have three 5s in a row – until a rogue 5 comes up from underneath, and pushes the middle 5 out of the way, denying them the win. But these two persist.

The numbers fail to line up, but eventually the balls (on-screen symbols at this stage) give them what they’re looking for – three balls. This drops a real one in amongst the coins – and when they get any of those over the ledge, a whole other side to the game springs into action.


The ball is shot around like a pinball, and lands on a spinning wheel that looks suspiciously like a miniature children’s roundabout. From here, it falls through one of three coloured holes (blue this time around), and then rolls down to the screen – where it meets yet another spinning wheel. The twist? This wheel’s on the screen. Whichever section of that wheel ends up nearest the ball decides what happens next. It’s like online casino meets real-world casino – although it’s not entirely clear why.


When our two guys land on the section labelled ‘JP’, you’d think they’d hit the jackpot. But no – this just takes them into the Jackpot ‘section’ of the game. One more ball appears, it goes through one of three holes to choose a multiplayer, and then lands at the final stage – yet another wheel, and yet more holes – each with a value.

The guys score 200 – and the machine pays out in cash. But can you guess where those coins go? Straight back into the machine – onto the moving shelf, where they knock yet more coins off, and start the whole process all over again. Back to square one.

After a few unexpected diversions (an animated child climbing up what i can only imagine must be called ‘Jackpot Rock’ while dodging the slot machine’s numbers; and what looks like a Nerf gun appearing out of nowhere, just to explain it’s time to press a button), the boys are right back there on the final wheel. And this time – they hit the jackpot. They go absolutely crazy.

And so do I – because i thought we’d seen all that this machine had to offer, but clearly i was mistaken. The screen splits into two pieces, and moves aside – revealing an old-school sign that wouldn’t look out of place on the Fortune Teller’s booth in ‘Big’. It reads ‘Congratulations’.

And congratulations are definitely in order – because his is when the coins start to fall. All 5286 of them. And trust me – that takes quite some time.

It’s all the boys can do to shovel those coins into their cups as fast as they’re coming out. They are beside themselves. They even think about giving some of their winnings to the smiley Japanese man who shows up beside them (although I doubt they actually did).

So do i finally understand what Pachinko is? Maybe. This was just one game – and i’m told not all of them make use of the Brighton Pier favourite the ‘Coin-Pusher’. So:

Pachinko = (Slot Machine + Video Game + Pinball Machine) x (a number of layers only the Japanese would think to add).

And that adds up to what looks like a pretty addictive formula. Which is probably why the guys in the video couldn’t resist in playing one final game before cashing in their winnings.

The question is – how much did they actually win? The consensus from those commenting on the video is that if it was 5286 Yen, that would only have been around $40 (less than £30) – but the Aussies themselves have hit back in the description, insisting they wouldn’t have gone so crazy over such a small amount.

In most Pachinko machines, one ball is worth 15 Yen. Assuming those coins are worth the same – their 5286 balls could add up to almost 80,000 Yen. That’s $665 (or £435). If that’s the case – not a bad win at all!