PHOTO EVERETT KENNEDY BROWNAAP

Why not try: Say goodbye to your balls at parlour

IT'S hard to think of a "leisure" experience that assaults the senses more than the brutality of a trip to a pachinko parlour.

Smoke? Check. Machine gun-like metal on metal? Yep. Flashing lights? Like a rave party. Well, maybe not quite like a rave, but they could certainly send one into a spasm.

Visitors to Japan are often told, "Oh you'll have to take at least one trip to a pachinko parlour". In my experience, once is more than enough.

The game itself is a form of pinball, but there are no flippers. In fact, the only control the player has is how fast the mint-sized balls are fired into the machine.

The balls fall vertically through a series of pins and into a number of holes. Some of these seem to trigger the release of more balls - these are the machine gun sounds - into the large plastic tubs that sit beside players.

I decide to spend the equivalent of $10 on my pachinko experience.

A vending machine swallows my crisp banknote and coughs up a pretty meagre serving of shiny metal balls.

Unlike the majority of players, I resist the urge to consume cigarettes and cheap, canned, sickly sweet coffee as I play.

I select a machine that looks neglected - I always like to go for the underdog, but a friend later tells me machines are generally ignored for a good reason.

With a flick of the wrist, my balls start to disappear. I'm not sure which are the glory holes and which are the vortexes to misery. My silver spheres all vanish.

You can't legally win money from pachinko, so the parlour will give you chunky bits of plastic in exchange for your balls.

Useless right? Well, actually, no. A seemingly unrelated business a few doors down the road is more than happy to buy these chunks of plastic at a generous rate.

Even one visit is probably one too many.

Follow David on Twitter: @bigkamo



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