Wednesday, 25 September 2013

WK3 - Game Centers & Pachinko

Pachinko Nation - I had no idea  that Japan's gambling problem was so substantial. I had seen a short expose on gambling that focused on fixed sumo matches, but the part on pachinko parlours talked mainly about the noise. This article brings to light the enormity of the problem, but the way the author sometimes generalizes the whole population is worrisome with statements like " Japanese like most of Japanese society: low-stakes, low-risk." Or "propping up a nuclear weasel like North Korea". Interesting was how the gambling industry is linked to philanthropy: the Nippon Foundation which donates for many good charities, is funded by gambling losses. Also of note is how 3/4 of parlours are run by Japanese-Koreans, many of whom have ties to North Korea, are sympathetic to that countries regime, and send their profits home. In essence, pachinko in part funds the North Korean military machine, to Japan's embarrassment. Hence they have introduced card-readers on the machines in order to curb this problem of money laundering. The key element I found was the fact that Japan gives little regard to issues of morality, and treat issues such as gambling, prostitution and drinking as practical matters with no intention of banning.

Print Club Photography in Japan - this is an exploration on the lasting effects that a very specific machine has on a culture. Print Club (or Purikura) essentially consists of instant photo-booths that print off small sticker images of yourself and friends in multiples (over 16), and installed in a public place for sharing. They place the stickers on their bags, clothing, notebooks, instruments, vehicles, etc. The Print Club provides a place for people to gather, express themselves, and share their creations with their peers. This is analogous to the rise of the arcade in the United States in the 1970s, and the camaraderie surrounding competing to attain the game's high score. There are also offshoot industries centered around them, for instance image sets that feature popular media stars like movie celebrities, singers, politicians and cartoon characters. Also printed are calendars, cards, puzzle boards etc. This has all become a very social activity, and many young Japanese cannot imagine having a social life that doesn't revolve in some way around Purikura.

Works Cited:

Chalfen and Marui, "Print club photography in Japan", Print Club

Plotz, "Pachinko Nation", Pachinko Nation

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