I sometimes surprise myself with the most unusual things to add to my Godzilla collection! But more on that exact connection in a moment. First off, let me start with the obvious--this weekend I crossed another item off from my List of Lifetime Quests, which included things like owning a working theramin (check!), a piece of the Berlin Wall (check!), as well as a pachinko machine!
You may have seen a few in your travels as well. My problem was, I never knew if they were broken, or what they needed. Internets to the rescue!
In case you are completely uncultured, pachinko is a hugely popular arcade game in Japan, and has been for years. Whereas American arcades have become bastions of elementary-school training for the future gamblers of tomorrow, a place where video games have been slowly replaced with rigged "skill cranes" and ticket-dispensing ripoffs of various types, there are and have always been pachinko parlors in Japan (imagine how noisy they must be). Gambling is illegal in Japan, and the small ball-bearings you win from these machines can be traded for various items. They even are engraved with different symbols and logos, which represent the various arcades and parlors, just like our domestic tokens! This vertical pinball should not be totally unfamiliar to Americans, as there is an entire game in "The Price Is Right" dedicated to it (at least, I think there still is; I'll admit I haven't watched the show since the Bob Barker days), and even a recent Mario game had an entire pachinko level.
If you grew up in the 1970's, you probably encountered one at some point. Domestic companies purchased the machines from Japanese parlors, refurbished them, and sold them to willing Americans. I vividly remember playing one at a relative's house, out of state.
Anyway, to steer back on point, I was looking this thing over, trying to decide on my purchase, when I saw this:
If you read the title of this post, you knew where this was going. When I first looked at the large lobster-like creature at the center jackpot, I figured there had to be some sort of mistake, so I looked up the Japanese word for lobster, which isn't even close. Then I remembered that Ebirah is based on the Japanese word for SHRIMP, which is "ebi," of course. My meanderings through Pachinko forums and websites confirmed for me that the machine was indeed, and quite randomly, based on the Godzilla foe. (Also, the smaller jackpot spaces, seen above, really look suspiciously like moths to me, but who knows?) There is a similar machine based on King Kong as well! It quickly dawned upon me that this was the machine I was meant to own.
Another learning experience was researching the need for power. (As any aspiring super-villain, I do have the need for power, but here, I mean to say, does the thing need electricity or not?) Luckily, vintage pachinko machines work on gravity, which, until the government catches on, is completely free. But a glance at the back of the machine will show you why I had some trepidation: