Though Japanese casinos do not exist in the typical sense, gambling has enjoyed a long and popular history in Japan. There are several gambling options that remain active in Japan and make up the closest equivalent to Japanese casinos. Many of Japan's people believe that Japanese casinos would be beneficial to the economy, and perhaps the most vocal supporter of Japanese casinos is governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has been pushing for years to establish a Japanese casino in Tokyo. In fact, Ishihara recently announced his intentions to build one or more Japanese casinos along the Tokyo waterfront, citing the additional revenue the construction would bring to the Japanese government.
Meanwhile, a large number of Japanese enjoy playing at pachinko parlors, which are the closest things to Japanese casinos available. Pachinko is a hugely popular game in Japan. It is played on a machine that resembles a vertical pinball machine outfitted with a maze of slender pins. To play pachinko, you purchase a number of steel balls (rather than casino chips) that are about the size of standard ball bearings, and release them into the pachinko machine, with the objective of getting them to fall into accumulative slots, score points, and win even more balls. Players can physically manipulate the pachinko machine with a series of levers in an attempt to control the falling of the balls. When the game is finished, you cash in the pachinko balls at a nearby shop separate from the parlor. When Japanese casinos are built, they will no doubt contain as many pachinko machines as American casinos have slot machines.
Mahjong is another popular gambling game in Japan, which is played in settings similar to what might be considered Japanese casinos. Though the game originated in China, it has found favor with the Japanese gambling community. Mahjong is similar to the card game of gin rummy, though the rules are more complicated and it is played with tiles instead of cards. The loud clicking of mahjong tiles on a board is a distinguishing characteristic of the game. Though traditionally mahjong is a four-player game, the Japanese have adopted a three-player form in addition to the typical four-player version. After visiting a mahjong parlor in Japan, you could easily imagine mahjong rooms instead of poker rooms at a Japanese casino.
The majority of the Japanese public believes that Governor Ishihara has enough political clout to overturn the prohibition of Japanese casinos. Currently, at least three other Japanese governors are interested in the idea of building Japanese casinos in their districts. If they are successful, the typical Japanese casino may have considerable similarities to American casinos - except, of course, for the pachinko machine banks and the mahjong rooms!
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