Pachinko Parlors Remain Open in Japan Despite State of Emergency Being Declared

  • A month-long state of emergency was announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 7
  • Several pachinko parlors have ignored requests to close during this period
  • Osaka’s governor publicly named and shamed six pachinko parlors for remaining open
  • Parlors warned that action may be taken against those that remain open past the weekend
Pachinko game center
Government officials in Japan have slammed pachinko parlors that remain open for business despite a state of emergency being declared. [Image:]

Several parlors refusing to close

Despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announcing a month-long state of emergency on April 7 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of the country’s pachinko parlors remain open for business.

Nonessential businesses such as pachinko parlors have been instructed to shut down to help stop the virus from spreading. However, according to social media reports, people are still packing into the parlors. Players are touching the machines and handling prizes without a care in the world.

With calls for closures falling on deaf ears, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura called out six of the pachinko parlors that remain open.

The government in Tokyo plans to do the same thing on Tuesday. If the Osaka parlors remain open, the authorities have warned that they will consider taking action against them.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for an 80% decrease in person-to-person contact to try to curb the virus. To date, more than 12,490 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Japan, with 328 deaths announced.

Many are busier than ever

According to some local sources, more people have been frequenting these parlors than usual. A 22-year-old man from Tokyo who frequents one of these remaining parlors spoke to Reuters. He said: “I suppose everybody doesn’t have jobs or places to go other than these pachinko parlors, which are still open.”

The two leading pachinko chains in Japan (Dynam and Maruhan) have closed approximately half of their facilities. They are reportedly planning to close more of these parlors over the weekend. 

A spokesperson for Dynam spoke to Reuters about the situation, stating staff are regularly wiping down areas that are touched a lot by using alcohol. The spokesperson went on to say:

Conditions at each location vary, so social distancing measures are left to the individual parlors.”

Pachinko is very popular in Japan

More than 10% of the Japanese population plays pachinko. The game generates about $185.5bn in tax revenue for the Japanese economy each year. People sit back-to-back in these parlors, facing lengthy rows full of machines.

You will find a pachinko parlor on a lot of streets around the country. Young people and the underemployed are some of the most common gamblers you will find in these establishments.

The game is similar to pinball, with winnings paid out in the form of ball bearings. These balls are exchanged for prize tokens that can then be converted into cash. 

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