J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Pachinko, The Mandala and Roulette

Pachinko, The Mandala and Roulette by timtak
Pachinko, The Mandala and Roulette, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The biggest contradiction facing the gambler is the obvious fact -- bearing in mind the luxury of gambling establishments -- that the house on average wins. In her seminal paper on gambling, Langer (1978) argues that gamblers have an "illusion of control". They believe that they can beat the odds, and come out above average. If they did not have some sort of illusion then they would not even enter the casino or pachinko hall in the first place.

I think that "illusion of control" can be unpacked in the following way
1) The essential illusion that "I am not an average player. I can beat the odds."
2) That one has a method of beating the odds.

As argued in previous posts it seems to me that (2) has a cultural aspect along the lines of
2.1) The illusion that one can make superior choices.
2.2) The illusion that one can persevere more, rely on ones konjo.

To relate this cultural difference to the overall message of this blog (Nacalianism), I argue that we westerners have illusions about our linguistic thoughts to ourselves, our self-narrative, our 'hearing ourselves speak' (Derrida, 1976). When Westerners think that their choices are better than average, that they can "choose" better numbers on the roulette wheel, they are betting on their internal voice: "This time it is going to be a six," "This time it is going to come up red." "Choice" and verbalisation are, I believe, inextricably linked. Choice is an act of meaning (Stevens, Markus, & Townsend, 2007). Westerners gamblers believe that their words will express the world.

The Japanese do not have any unrealistic expectations about their self-narrative but they do have a similar illusion about what they see and imagine. Japanese style perseverance is seeing a task through to the end. As they look at the pachinko machine, and merge with it as if looking at a Mandala (top right) they think that their imagines and expectations will come true.

The Western linguistic gambler ignores the sights that he sees, and holds onto the notion that his words will come true.

The imaginative gambler ignores the linguistic notions of odds but believes that his visualisation will come true. He negates the linguistic self. He becomes one with with the pachinko machine, and believes that his view will conform to his imagination.

Pachinko machines resemble Buddhist mandalas (top left). They invite the player to realise that the visual world and the self are contradictorily the same (Nishida: see Heisig, 2004).

Roulette tables invite the player to think that the linguistic (34, 33, even) outcomes are the same as the linguistic pronouncements in the mind.

Top left:Tawang Monastery Doorway Mandala by D Momaya. Creative Commons, share alike.
Top right: Pachinko by psd
Bottom:A Nightcap by priskiller. Creative Commons, share alike.

Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore.
Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of personality and social psychology, 32(2), 311.
Heisig, J. W. (2004). Nishida’s medieval bent. Japanese journal of religious studies, 55–72. nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications/jjrs/pdf/674.pdf
Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. R., & Townsend, S. S. (2007). Choice as an act of meaning: the case of social class. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(5), 814.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.