Gambling in general hasn’t really been a Japanese thing for the best part of a century, and officially it isn’t encouraged. With that said, it does regularly appear in different media and there is definitely an interest in it amongst Japanese audiences.
So just prominent is gambling within Japanese culture? We’re going to look at all the ways the two overlap and find out in this article.
What gambling is there in Japanese media?
On the whole, TV shows set within Japan simply don’t feature gambling, short of lotteries and similar events. In the few cases where we do see it, it’s usually within manga and anime, such as in the prominent anime on the subject, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor.
The show is exclusively about main character Kaiji being forced into a series of elaborate gambling situations in order to pay off a massive debt. It’s single-handedly responsible for getting anime fans in both Japan and the west checking blackjack guides, poker rules and where dice games can be played.
The show has proven to be a long-standing favorite as streaming of the series is available even today on different platforms, despite the aging style of the artwork. For a more modern take on a similar concept, the recent Kakegurui also serves a similar premise, just with a school setting.
Does gacha count as gambling?
For those who aren’t aware, gacha systems in real machine or video games are random prize dispensers, and usually provide trinkets and small toys, although many can also contain highly valuable collectables.
As for whether they count as gambling or not, the line isn’t clear, as while there aren’t any cash prizes, they do share almost every other feature. The systems are entirely random and bigger wins are rarer than common ones, although a key separation is that in a gacha the player is guaranteed to get at least something each time.
In games these usually give out characters or items to use, whereas the original gacha machines in Japan will give collectables or even figurines in some cases. They are massively popular in the Akihabara district of Tokyo so it’s unlikely we’ll see them go away any time soon.
What about casino games?
Within Japan you’re only likely to find pachinko machines, although even those are usually covered in licensed colorful designs. Online though, there are plenty of slots and games which use that distinctive Japanese art style, even if they don’t really use any licensed names. The case in point is the Moon Princess slot, which is very clearly based on a very famous show that even casual fans would know.
Then there are slots which are just based on stereotypes from media without any direct link, such as Magic Maid Cafe or Koi Princess to name just a couple, but it’s quite an extensive list. We have yet to see an official slot though, but it may just be a matter of time.
To sum up, it’s incredibly hard to separate Japan from gambling no matter which way you cut it, and it’s a connection that is only likely to grow as more shows and movies enter the retro realm and become more perfect material for casino development.