Pachinko game geoffreyrockwel/Flickr

North Korea’s Pachinko Missiles

For visitors to Japan, pachinko, a kind of pinball game with betting, is a gaudy scene – the players, including professionals who make a living from it, seem glued to their spots – and thus an understandably irresistible photo opportunity. But, for Japan, there is a darker side to the game.

TOKYO – Three scenes are often the subject of photographs taken by foreign tourists visiting Japan. One is a forest of utility poles; another is cars riding a gondola in mechanical parking areas. The third is pachinko.

Pachinko is a kind of pinball game with betting, and the people lined up facing the vertically arranged machines look like they are working in a factory. According to one report (in Japanese), there are 11.5 million pachinko enthusiasts, and the market is valued at ¥24.5 trillion – almost double the carmaker Toyota’s sales last year.

For foreigners, pachinko is a gaudy scene – the players, including professionals who make a living from it, seem glued to their spots – and thus an understandably irresistible photo opportunity. But, for Japan, there is a darker side to the fun and games.

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