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Pop Culture in Japan: Pachinko, Purikura and Pokemon



One of Japan's top pastimes and major industries, raking in a staggering ¥26.3 trillion a year, is pachinko. Pachinko is a mixture between slot machine and pinball. The player is quite passive while playing pachinko. He or she is only controlling the speed with which many small steel balls are thrown into the pachinko machine.

Most of the balls just fall down the machine and disappear, but a few find their way into special holes. This activates a kind of slot machine. As in the slot machine, you win if the same three pictures appear. This occurs quite rarely in pachinko, but if it happens, you win countless new balls. When just playing for 500 or 1000 Yen, you may likely just lose all your balls within a few minutes.

Purikura is the abbreviated form of "Print Club" translated into Japanese. Japanese has many less sounds than English so for example the only way to say "Print Club" in Japanese is "Purinto Kurabu". The Japanese like to shorten words and so it's been shortened to "Purikura". Purikura are machines you usually find in an arcade or game center that take your picture and then composite it in a graphic frame and print out a set of 16 to 20 of them as stickers about 1 inch by 1/2 inch big.

Need we say anything about Pokemon? In case you've been in a cave for a couple of years, Pokemon stands for poketto monsty (pocket monster) and as any eight-year-old can tell you there are some 150 of them, all with silly names, such as Polywig and Wigglytuffs, and fantastic powers. It all started as a video game and has flourished into a multimedia phenomenon, now with its own shop (the Pokemon Centre, Kawasaki Teitoku Building, 3-2-5 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo).

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