Steel balls

It seems not to be the custom to go out to dinner with the workshop leader her in Japan, so I have had all my evenings and morning free.  OK by me, though I would like to get to know the Japanese rolfers a bit better.  Lack of a common language is a problem, and my hat’s off to Yoshi for being a good and faithful translator during the class.

No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to a pachinko parlor, so as I passed on last night’s long walk, I went in.  First, the noise was deafening, not only the machines, but the big fans in the ceiling to suck away the smoke.  The longer I live with Quan, the more I value quiet, so the constant and proximate thunderous cacophony of the place would have disqualified it as a place of play for me.

The machines themselves are a vertical pinball bagatelle in which steel balls bounce off hundreds of pins to end up in one or another slot at the bottom.  Points, maybe, you get, although no counters were much in evidence on the screens, and no winnings that I could detect, except perhaps more balls. Nevertheless, people, mostly men, were seated before these machines with trays of steel balls in their lap, and on the floor beside them, feeding the balls into the spout and reflexively levering them into motion, like someone in Vegas working three slots at the same time.  Many balls would be falling like water droplets through the machine, but they were hardly watching, just concentrating on getting more in there.  The expressions on their faces were blank, even by the reticent Japanese standards.

There is now (I don’t remember this from pictures of earlier iterations) a TV screen in the middle, that has various anime characters on it, and they seemed to be shifting around and changing in response to where the balls went.   I am sure that there was a point to all this, but the noise was just too much to bear, as was the feeling that I had inadvertently walked in on someone who was masturbating.

I tried another one later on my walk – the noise and feeling and deathly pallor of cigarettes was exactly the same.

I also strode into a game room – I loved pinball in its day, and have been known to play an arcade game or two.  There were a few Virtual Fighters engaged in hand-to-hand combat, some interesting interactive football (soccer) games, in which your fingers on the ‘field’ controlled the players, while the TV screen showed the game.  Most in evidence were the fightin’ Mah Jong games, which combined Asian dominoes with some kind of war games.  The most elaborate was horse racing – a large screen that showed the horses in the ring before the race, odds on the wall, complex ‘desks’ for the players to sit at.  I couldn’t tell if this was all live, though given that they were betting on it, it must have been.

These games are beyond me.  Besides, I am falling ill, and wish I had brought some occilloccinum, or whatever it is called.  Too long away from home, too much alone, can’t bear another email or muster the concentration to work on another article – and too much stuff in the air, especially in China, but there are plenty of cars here too, with their gasses trapped in these canyons between the buildings.


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