The Pachinko temple

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Dec 30 2012

Tags: ,

Category: Asia, Japan

1 Comment

Focal Length:20.3mm
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During my walks through different neighbourhoods of Kyoto, going from one beautiful temple, garden, or palace to another, I now and then passed buildings like the one in the photo and I’d wonder what kind of place this was and what went on inside. One afternoon I decided  to enter a Pachinko parlour as I had learned they were called, and see for myself. I opened the door and walked into a deafening wall of sound. The scene inside the big hall silenced me with bewilderment. There were rows and rows of vertical pinball machines, each one with a person sitting in front of it. Altogether hundreds of people, all locked up in their own world of gambling and enclosed by this infernal noise. A little later, outside in the sudden quiet of the street, I looked up at the façade of the colourful inferno I had just escaped from. It carried the name New Paradise.

In Kyoto alone there must be well over a hundred Pachinko parlours, each one frequented by hundreds of people at any moment of the day. I believe the whole of Japan has some 20 million regular Pachinko players, maybe we should call them Pachinko addicts. That is about one sixth of its total population!

I still don’t know how to combine the two images of Japan that have impressed me most: the one of its rich traditional culture, characterized by, let’s call it briefly, the Zen mind, and the other image represented by the Pachinko mind. In the first we can see a person contemplating in stillness a work of art, a garden, a bowl of tea. And in the second we see a person sitting for hours with a stony face in front of a gambling machine. Superficially – or at a very deep level? – one may perceive a certain resemblance between the expression of the two faces and suggest the idea that both may well be looking for salvation, be it each in his own way. But personally I can’t get away from the impression that we are here confronted with two irreconcilable worlds, two completely different mind sets, that miraculously co-exist next to each other in the same society.

Photo of the week: Pachinko hall, Kyoto, Japan, 2008

One comment on “The Pachinko temple”

  1. Ben een keertje met zuslief in Brussel naar Casino geweest…ze komt daar met haar man iedere week…nou …ook daar zag ik soortgelijke beelden…..helemaal gefixeerd op de schermen aan het turen….en je mocht nauwelijks praten…..brrr…blij dat ik weg was..maar ook fascinerend…bij schaken heb je toch duidelijk een andere spanning…


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