I am about seventy percent finished the absolutely wonderful PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee. It is going to be five stars for me and I will post my review soon. In the mean time I must admit that I had heard of Pachinko machines but never knew exactly what they were. Something similar to a western pinball machine was always the image that popped into my head. Anyway here is what they are.
A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but is different from Western pinball in several ways. First, a pachinko machine uses small (11 mm diameter) steel balls, which are rented to the player by the owner (usually a "pachinko parlor," featuring many individual games in rows), while pinball games use a larger, captive ball. The pachinko balls are not only the active object, but are also the bet and the prize. The player loads one or more balls into the machine, then presses and releases a spring-loaded handle, which is attached to a padded hammer inside the machine, thus launching the ball into a metal track. The track guides the ball around the edge of the playing field, then when the ball loses momentum, it falls into the playing field from near the top. Some pachinko machines have a bumper to bounce the ball as it reaches the top, while other machines allow the ball to travel all the way around the field, to fall on the second time that it reaches the top.
In either case, the ball enters the playing field, which is populated by a large number of brass pins, several small cups into which the player hopes the ball will fall (each catcher is barely the width of the ball), and a hole at the bottom into which the ball will fall if it doesn't enter a catcher. The ball bounces from pin to pin, both slowing the fall and making it travel laterally across the field. A ball which enters a catcher will trigger a payout, in which a number of balls are dropped into a tray at the front of the machine. Many games made since the 1960s feature "tulip" catchers, which have small flippers which open to expand the width of the catcher. Tulip catchers are controlled by the machine, and may open and close randomly or in a pattern; an expert player might try to launch the ball with an impulse and timing to reach the catcher when the flippers are open. The object of the game is to capture as many balls as possible. These balls can then be exchanged for prizes. Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but modern ones have incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to video slot machines.
Until this book I had no idea how prolific and popular these pachinko parlours were, and still are to this day. Knowing what these machines are and the existence of these parlours made the book more enjoyable for me. The game lends its name to the title of the book but the machines, how they operate, and the parlours are never given a decent explanation. Hope this helps.