Pachinko Balls
Issei Kato/Reuters

What is the Difference Between Pachinko Games and Slots?

The Land of the Rising Sun has many peculiar traditions and practices that can be considered quite uncommon in the Western world. But, that is why we are so fascinated by it! Japanese trends like anime cartoons and Harajuku fashion are slowly entering the mainstream fashion in the West, and along them came pachinko games.

Pachinko games are an amazing combination of traditional gaming and gambling and have the capacity to get you hooked in a second. From the outside, they look a lot like conventional slot machines, but are they more than that, or just a Japanese variation of it?

What are the Pachinko Games?

Pachinko games are a type of mechanical game intended for entertainment, as casinos are illegal in Japan. Pachinko first came to be in the 1920s but has been one of the favorite pastimes of Japanese ever since. Traditional pachinko games were similar to pinball machines. The player would purchase one or more balls, with around 1 cm diameter, and then place it into the machine. The main goal of the game was to keep the ball as high as possible, despite all the obstacles and traps. Certain features would boost the ball or provide a nice bonus. The reward always comes in the shape of balls.

Even now, in the 21st century, many pachinko parlors offer these retro mechanical games, but more and more pachinko enthusiasts rely on games with LCD screens.

Once the game is over, the player can’t request a cashout, like in a casino. They first have to exchange their leftover balls for a special token, and then visit an exchange kiosk to get their money. This approach is used to take advantage of the legal loophole – Japan doesn’t support casinos and cash payouts, but in this case, you exchange balls for the token, and token for money. Even though the exchange kiosk and pachinko parlor are usually owned by the same company, the authorities turn a blind eye to this practice, mostly because it generates more revenue than all Las Vegas casinos combined.

When compared to traditional slot machines, these two games might look exactly the same, but there is one big difference. Traditional pachinko games require a certain level of skill, just like pinball machines, as not all players are equally capable to keep the ball high up. On the other hand, slot machines have always been, and always will be a game of chance, rather than a game of skill. However, thanks to the online industry, this difference is getting smaller with each release.

Pachinko Etiquette

When compared to Western casinos Pachinko parlors may seem rather quiet. The main reason for this is the Japanese etiquette, which is also present and highly regarded among pachinko players. Unlike in Western casinos where every win is celebrated, shared, and loudly announced, pachinko players usually keep for themselves. There is no talking, celebrating, jumping, or hugging the player on the machine next to you. Usually, you can only hear balls drop, and some sounds the machines make, but no loud talking or socializing will ever take place. Talking to your pachinko neighbor is also seen as bad luck, so even though it’s tempting, make sure not to bother others.

Pachinko Slots vs. Video Slots

Pachinko slots are games similar to slots, but with some major differences. They became popular only recently, with the rise of online gambling. Pachinko slots are usually inspired by certain pachinko games, but follow the premise of a slot in their design and rules.

The first and most important difference between a pachislot and a video slot is that pachinko slots can only have 3 reels, while video slots can have 3, 5, or 7 reels. Also, pachislots are more often than not, a game of patience, as small winnings accumulate over time. Traditional slots, on the other hand, offer special boosters, bonuses, and trigger prizes that are not as common in the world of Japanese gaming.

Keep in mind there are also pachinko games that are nothing like slots. For example, you can turn cards, connect colors, and not only spin reels. Still, when it comes to online playing, pachinko slots are the most popular type of this century-old form of entertainment.

Where to find Pachinko Slots?

Pachinko slots and games can be found in special venues and parlors all across Japan. They are usually located next to train stations to attract customers looking for some after-work fun. If you are looking for something that is closer rather than a plane ride away, make sure to check out what reputable online casinos like カジノシークレット (Casino Secret) have to offer. Pachinko games are widely popular in Asia and are only finding their way to the European and US market, so make sure to search for specialized software providers or casinos oriented towards Asian markets.