I awoke this morning on a king-sized bed in a room that dwarfed my entire apartment, threw back the curtains to reveal a panoramic view of rolling fields and snow topped mountains, and once again questioned myself why anyone would actually choose to live in Tokyo. A Saturday morning not spent in the recesses of a stranger’s armpit, whilst paying for the privilege (I am of course talking about the Tokyo Metro) did wonders for my mood and complexion, whilst a wonder around one of the nearby towns, celebrating a local festival, filled me with nostalgia for a Japanese childhood that I never had.
This evening I had my first experience in a Pachinko Parlour. These somewhat bizarre places have been set up as a way for the Japanese to get their kicks in a country which has outlawed gambling. They basically consist of endless rows of machines, which people sit in front of and try and guide a load of metallic balls into a small hole, in order to win more metal balls; it is about 95% luck and 5% skill, and afterwards you exchange your metal balls for a variety of cards, which are then traded off the premises for money. It is a completely bizarre, crooked, and yet thoroughly competent system. Yuko’s mum is allegedly a bit of a Pachinko ‘expert’ and got me off to a start by putting ¥1000 (~£82!!!) in my machine, and I spent the next two hours or so doing my best to loose it for her. I ended proceedings around ¥5800 down (on someone else’s money!), and was told to keep the ¥4200 that I had won for myself. Even with those kinds of overheads, or perhaps because of them, I shall not be adding suspect gambling to my list of vices.