How to Choose the Best Pachinko Machine for Beginners

May 20, 2024

Pachinko is a unique form of entertainment in Japan that combines elements of pinball and slot machines. If you're visiting Japan, trying your hand at pachinko can be an exciting way to experience a part of Japanese culture. For first-time players, choosing from the wide variety of pachinko machines available can be overwhelming. However, by keeping a few key points in mind, even beginners can find a machine that suits their preferences and skill level.

In this article, we'll introduce some tips and tricks on how to select the best pachinko machine for beginners. So, let's dive in and discover the fun of this iconic Japanese pastime!

What is Pachinko?

Pachinko is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Japan. The game involves shooting small steel balls onto a vertically mounted board filled with pins and targets. When the balls land in certain pockets, they trigger a slot machine that can potentially reward the player with more balls. These balls can then be exchanged for prizes.

Pachinko is a unique part of Japanese culture and can be an intriguing experience for foreign visitors. Pachinko parlors can be found throughout Japan, making it easy for anyone to give the game a try. Many pachinko machines feature themes from popular Japanese anime and characters which adds an extra layer of cultural immersion and entertainment.

Is Pachinko a Form of Public Gambling?

While pachinko is extremely popular in Japan, it is not considered a form of public gambling. Public gambling in Japan refers to betting activities operated or supervised by the government or local authorities, such as horse racing (keiba), bicycle racing (keirin), boat racing, and auto racing. These forms of gambling are regulated by specific laws and are operated by public organizations, with a portion of the revenue being used for public welfare and sports promotion.

On the other hand, pachinko is operated by private companies as a form of entertainment. It is permitted within the framework of the law as a type of "amusement" where players can win prizes. These prizes can typically be exchanged for cash or other items at designated locations outside the pachinko parlor, and this exchange process is sometimes considered a legal gray area.

Legally, the operation of pachinko is strictly regulated under the Amusement Business Law and requires permission from the police. So, while pachinko is not a form of public gambling, it does contain elements of gambling like amusement casinos and exists as a unique form of entertainment in Japan.

How to Enjoy Pachinko

To fully enjoy the pachinko experience, it's important to understand how the game works, choose a machine that suits your preferences and manage your investment wisely. Below are several points detailing how to savor the distinctive experience of Japanese pachinko.

Understanding the game mechanics

Pachinko is played by shooting small steel balls onto an inclined board dotted with pins (similar to a pinball game). The balls navigate through these pins, and landing in certain pockets can trigger a digital slot machine component. If the symbols on this slot machine align correctly, you could win additional balls or even prizes. Familiarizing yourself with these basic game dynamics will make your experience smoother and more enjoyable.

Choosing a machine

Pachinko parlors feature a diverse array of machines, each with unique themes and gameplay features. Many machines are themed around popular anime, movies, or cultural icons, enhancing the entertainment value. If you're new to pachinko, consider starting with machines that offer straightforward gameplay to ease your learning curve. Don't hesitate to ask the parlor staff for recommendations, or choose based on the machine’s payout rate, which can indicate potential reward levels.

Managing your investment

Treat pachinko as a form of paid entertainment, similar to how you might view going to the movies or attending a concert. Decide in advance how much money you are comfortable spending and adhere strictly to this budget. Even if you find yourself winning, it’s important to maintain discipline and recognize when it’s time to stop. This approach helps prevent the game from becoming financially burdensome and addictive.

Types of Pachinko Machines

There are three main types of pachinko machines, each with different specifications. Understanding the characteristics of each type can help you choose a machine that suits your playstyle. Let's take a closer look at each type.

Middle-Type Machines

Middle-type pachinko machines have standard specifications, with a jackpot probability ranging from 1/319.6 to 1/329.7. The payout rate is also set at around 103% to 106%, making them relatively easy to win and suitable for many players. It is relatively easy to play this type of machine making it easier to get addictive, however it is harder to win a jackpot. On the other hand, when you do hit the jackpot, the payout is substantial, making them popular among skilled players who are confident in their abilities. Additionally, there are many middle-type machines available on the market, making it easy for players to find one that suits their preferences.

Light-Type Machines

Compared to middle-type machines, light-type pachinko machines are set to have a higher probability of hitting the jackpot, with a range of 1/199.8 to 1/220. The payout rate is also set higher. Although the payout per jackpot is lower than middle-type machines, light-type machines allow players to accumulate profits steadily and are less likely to become addicted. This stability and ease of winning make them popular among beginners and intermediate players. They are also relatively inexpensive to play, allowing for longer gaming sessions.

Amadeji Machines

Amadeji machines have a jackpot probability ranging from 1/99.9 to 1/199.9 and a high payout rate, making them very easy to hit the jackpot. Although the payout per jackpot is low, the frequent wins allow for longer play sessions and make it easy to win in a short period, providing a sense of exhilaration. This makes them popular among players who want to minimize risk or simply enjoy playing pachinko. Compared to middle-type machines, Amadeji machines have a higher jackpot probability but lower payout, so the high payout rate is the key to winning.

In other words, the amadeji type has a high hit probability, making it a specification that even beginners can play with confidence. However, don't forget that it generally has a low-risk, low-return characteristic.

How to Choose a Pachinko Machine for Beginners

Selecting the right machine from the wide variety available can be a challenge for beginners. Choosing a suitable machine can make the game more enjoyable and help you continue playing for longer. Here are some tips to help beginners choose a pachinko machine that suits their needs and ensures a fun and safe experience.

Choose a machine with low investment

Beginners should start with "low-cost" machines that allow for longer play sessions with a smaller investment. For example, machines that cost 1 yen or 4 yen per ball enable players to shoot more balls with less money. This allows you to learn the game's progression and characteristics of the machines without overextending yourself.

Choose a machine with simple gameplay

Rather than machines with complex rules and numerous features, opt for those with simple and easy-to-understand gameplay. It's essential to grasp the basic rules of pachinko first, so look for machines designed for beginners.

Choose a popular machine

Popular machines are popular for a reason and are often a good choice for beginners. You can select machines that are frequently played in the parlor or those recommended by the staff. Popular machines tend to be beginner-friendly and have many enjoyable elements.

Choose a machine with exciting features

One of the joys of pachinko is the abundant visual and sound effects. Beginners are often drawn to machines with exciting features. Choosing a machine that is fun to watch or has a theme you enjoy (such as anime or movies) can help you play for a long time thanks to the different scenes available.

Check the condition of the machine

Before playing, check that the machine you've chosen is functioning properly and is clean. Ensure that the buttons are responsive and the screen is free of defects to ensure a comfortable playing environment.

Refer to online reviews and ratings

Before visiting a pachinko parlor, you can check online reviews and ratings for the machines you're interested in. Referring to the opinions and experiences of other players can give you an idea of which machines are suitable for beginners.

Recommended Pachinko Machines

Now, let's introduce some popular pachinko machine series in Japan that are also recommended for first-time players. Feel free to use these as a reference when choosing a machine.

1. Pachinko CR Sea Story Series

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The "Sea Story" series features adorable characters and colorful graphics. With simple gameplay and settings that allow for long play sessions with low investment, it's highly recommended for beginners. 

The "Sea Story" series is very popular, both among beginners and experienced players. The reason behind its popularity is that the visuals for jackpots and other features are easier to understand compared to other machines. With many recent pachinko machines having complex graphics and features, the straightforward and simple visuals of the "Sea Story" series make it appealing.

One recommended machine for beginners is the amadeji version from the "Sea Story" series, which has a higher hit probability. Although this machine has a higher hit rate, the payouts tend to be smaller. If you want to experience a jackpot without spending too much money, amadeji machines are a good choice.

For example, the typical CR Super Sea Story in Okinawa 3 HME has a hit probability of 1/358.120 in normal mode and 1/35.812 in high-probability mode.

Experience the joy of pachinko alongside the charming sea creatures.

2. CR Fist of the North Star (Hokuto No Ken) Series

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"Fist of the North Star (Hokuto No Ken)" is one of Japan's most iconic fighting manga and anime series. The pachinko machines in this series recreate the powerful effects of the original work while maintaining easy-to-understand gameplay. Even beginners can naturally grasp the rules of pachinko while immersing themselves in the world of "Fist of the North Star."

One of the highly recommended pachinko machines is "P Shin Hokuto Musou Chapter 3: Jagi's Counterattack. ( P真・北斗無双 第3章 ジャギの逆襲 ) " This machine has a light middle specification with a 1/199 hit probability. Compared to other machines with similar specs, the chance of entering RUSH mode is about 35%, which is a bit lower. However, when you do hit during RUSH mode, you get a powerful 1,500 balls. Moreover, the speed of play during RUSH mode is incredibly fast, with reports of up to 80,000 balls per hour.

3. CR Pachinko Neon Genesis Evangelion Series

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Based on the popular anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion," this series features familiar themes and flashy effects. There are multiple models available, and the rules are relatively simple, making it easy for beginners to enjoy. You can immerse yourself in the world of Evangelion while experiencing the excitement of pachinko.

Among them, "Neon Genesis Evangelion: Roar into the Future ( P新世紀エヴァンゲリオン~未来への咆哮~ ) " is highly recommended.Its main draw is the firepower! With a hit probability of about 1/319, an ST (Special Time) entry rate of around 70%, and a continuation rate of about 80%, it's designed to be exciting. Yet, the real thrill comes from the 1,500-ball jackpot, which continues to attract many pachinko enthusiasts. 

Adding to the experience, the enormous head of EVA Unit-01—the series' biggest feature—creates a stunning visual impact. You'll find yourself shouting along as the EVA's mouth opens during a jackpot. The "Smart Handle" at the center is designed to reduce wrist fatigue, offering a universal setup that allows play with either hand. Whether you're an Evangelion fan or not, this machine is worth checking out!

4. CR Monster Hunter

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The pachinko machine, themed after the hugely popular "Monster Hunter" video game series is especially recommended for fans of the game. It faithfully recreates the game's world and offers an immersive experience with realistic effects. If you've played the game before, you can enjoy pachinko with a greater sense of familiarity.

A recommended machine from this series is "P Monster Hunter Double Cross: Continuous Hunting Version by Sammy  ( Pモンスターハンターダブルクロス 連続狩猟ver./サミー ) ". This machine requires 500 spins in normal mode to reach Yutime, which is about the same as other light-middle machines. Yutime is a feature that activates when a set number of spins pass in normal mode (low-probability mode) without hitting a jackpot; it initiates a time-saving mode! However, even when you enter Yutime, there's no guarantee that you'll get a jackpot on the next spin, so stay alert.

Once in Yutime, there's a powerful bonus with about an 84% chance of repeatedly winning 800 balls. Even if you miss in Yutime, you'll still receive at least 800 balls, making it quite advantageous. If you visit a 4-yen pachinko hall with equivalent exchange rates, aim for machines with over 200 spins after RUSH mode.

5. CR Lupin III (Lupin the Third) Series

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"Lupin III" is one of Japan's most iconic and long-running anime series. This pachinko machine vividly portrays the world of Lupin III and features engaging story-based effects. Even beginners can enjoy the easy-to-understand gameplay alongside the beloved anime characters.

One of the best choices is the "P Lupin the Third: 2000 Carat Tears (Pルパン三世 2000カラットの涙) " Its specifications feature a mixed type with a 1 in 319.6 chance of hitting a jackpot. The first jackpot has a 50% chance of yielding 3,000 balls (10 rounds x 2 times) and activating the top mode. The top mode has a continuation rate of about 81%, with every jackpot yielding 1,500 balls (10 rounds). Additionally, the game is structured in two parts: a fast-paced first section and a battle-focused second section, allowing players to experience both exhilarating speed and thrilling suspense.

Discovering Pachislot

When visiting a pachinko parlor in Japan, don't miss the chance to try pachislot, a unique mix of slot machines and the energetic vibe of traditional pachinko parlors. Pachislot, short for "Pachinko Slot," offers a captivating gaming experience that draws enthusiasts from across Japan.

Playing pachislot is simple: insert coins or medals into the machine and pull the lever to start the reels spinning. Your goal is to align specific symbols to win medals. The outcome depends on the final arrangement of these symbols, with different combinations leading to various rewards.

If you're new to pachislot and wondering which machine to try, the Juggler series, especially the "I'm Juggler" model, is a great choice. It's popular among both beginners and experienced players, offering a fun and engaging experience.

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Pachislot has grown to be a favorite pastime in Japan, rivaling even pachinko in popularity. So, if you visit a pachinko parlor, be sure to give pachislot a spin and dive into this dynamic part of Japanese gaming culture.

Precautions when Playing Pachinko

There are several precautions to keep in mind when enjoying pachinko. By being aware of these, you can have a safe and enjoyable time.

Gambling Addiction Awareness

Although pachinko is primarily a form of entertainment, it carries the risk of gambling addiction. It’s important to stay aware of how much time and money you are investing in the game. Moderation is the key to responsibly enjoying pachinko and preventing potential issues.

Budget Management

Before you visit a pachinko parlor, it's vital to decide on a budget and stick to it. This is especially important for visitors from abroad who need to carefully manage their travel expenses and consider currency exchange fluctuations. Whether you win or lose, it's critical not to surpass your predetermined budget and to avoid the temptation to borrow additional money for playing.

Time Management

To make the most of your trip to Japan, impose strict limits on your pachinko playtime. This practice helps ensure that the game does not interfere with your sightseeing or other cultural experiences. Be mindful not to become so engrossed in the game that you neglect necessary breaks or meals. Maintaining a healthy balance between gaming and other activities is vital for an enriching travel experience.

Etiquette and Prohibited Activities in Pachinko Parlors

Respecting others is a fundamental aspect of Japanese culture, which extends to your behavior in pachinko parlors. If there are somebody’s belongings placed on a machine it means someone is using the machine and is out for a break and to choose a different machine. Keep noise to a minimum and treat the machines with care. Most parlors prohibit smoking indoors, so if you need to smoke, please use the designated smoking areas provided.

Prepare Cash

Pachinko parlors typically operate on a cash-only basis. It's wise to carry just enough cash for your planned gaming and avoid having large amounts on hand. Additionally, steer clear of using credit cards to fund pachinko play, as this can lead to serious financial repercussions.

Discovering Japanese Pachinko on YouTube

It's a video of a foreign YouTuber visiting a pachinko parlor. By watching this video, you can get a feel for the atmosphere of a Japanese pachinko parlor and see how pachinko is actually played.

Youtube: I Played Japan's Biggest Gambling Obsession | Pachinko / Japan Experiences


This guide summarizes the key points for choosing a pachinko machine and the mindset for beginners who are new to this world and wish to adventure. Beginners should select machines with simple operations and maintain a flexible attitude toward the game's progression. Pachinko also has a unique cultural appeal, and playing the game can be a way to experience a cultural aspect of Japan. By keeping these points in mind, you can enhance your experience and enjoyment during your visit to Japan.

PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer, a seasoned connoisseur in his 40s based in Japan, boasts an unparalleled depth of knowledge and experience within the vibrant landscapes of both drinking and gambling, alongside his well-documented ventures into various red-light districts. This extensive exploration encompasses not just the nocturnal delights of Japan's red-light areas but also its myriad of bars, horse racing, pachinko, and many others. Drawing on his firsthand experiences, he conveys the appeal and characteristics of Japan's diverse adult entertainment districts and his enjoyment of the nightlife scene through his writing for PIJ.

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