Japan is full of pachinko parlors and horse racing facilities. When you meet people who gamble you quickly come to find how commonplace it is. It is a livelihood for some, and a passionate hobby for many.
According to Japanese law, many forms of gambling are prohibited. There are exceptions made for certain types like horse, car, and boat races. But pachinko parlors and gambling casinos are not legally allowed to give you money in exchange for your winnings.
But there is a system to work around the rules. By law you are not allowed to exchange winnings for cash prizes, but you can exchange them for special plastic cards in the prize booth. And then you can take these cards to a separate building, usually a very small, discreet both, where you can place them in a small slot in a covered window. Someone whose face you never see takes these cards, and in return feeds out a sum of money equivalent to the value of those cards. If the money exchange occurs in a separate building, then it is legal, technically.
You may be overwhelmed when first entering one of these gaming parlors. The noise is intense and the sound effects from each machine adds up to a drowning level. The smell of tobacco and smoke is also intense, as these facilities allow people to smoke at their seats.
A lot of people who go here are addicted to gambling as you may have assumed. People spend hours or the entire day at these places. When there are events or promotions at these places it is not uncommon for people to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars here. It is very easy for people to get into debt from continuing this gambling, but they keep playing in the hope that they will make their money back.
It’s not a place for everyone, but it can be a very peaceful experience as no one bothers you while you are here. Most of the time, they won’t even spare you a glance. Everyone is too focused on their game.