New Apple TV Plus series Pachinko follows a family of Korean immigrants as they adapt to life in Japan over the course of four generations. For those who can’t wait until March 25, 2022, the first three episodes of the show will be made available on Apple TV Plus.
The show is based on Min Jin Lee’s novel of the same name, but what does “pachinko” mean? Are pachinko machines the same as slot machines? You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about pachinko machines here.
What is a pachinko machine and what does the term “pachinko” mean?
Merriam-Webster defines the term “pachinko” as a Japanese gambling machine similar to the pinball machine, but with the automatic payoff, that slot machines have. Japan’s first commercial ice cream parlor opened in 1948 after the machines were shut down during World War II.
Japanese pachinko machine games are a multi-million dollar industry that is dominated by Korean Japanese immigrant communities, according to NPR‘s discussion of the book Pachinko published in 2017. According to the Japan Times, 80% of all pachinko machines in Japan are owned by Koreans.
After attending a lecture by an American missionary while in college, journalist Min Jin Lee came up with the idea for Pachinko. The missionary had been working with Korean and Japanese immigrant communities and mentioned the suicide of a 13-year-old boy. Despite the fact that he was born in Japan, he was bullied by his classmates for being Korean. She was determined to tell the story of Koreans in Japan as a Korean American herself.
How do pachinko machines tie into ‘Pachinko’ the TV series?
Racism, racial stereotypes, and power are all explored in the novel Pachinko, which focuses on the experiences of Koreans in Japan during World War II. According to a reviewer, the novel’s characters’ lives often mirror the uncontrollable and unpredictable nature of pachinko machines.
When asked about the title of her book, Min Jin told the Chicago Review of Books that she originally planned to call it Motherland, but she changed her mind after learning how much the pachinko industry meant to Korean readers.