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 08, 2012


The Face of Pachinko and the Illusion of Control by True-Grit

The Face of Pachinko by timtak
The Face of Pachinko, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
As previously argued the "illusion of control" (Langer, 1975) that enables Japanese pachinko gamblers to think that they may win even though the odds are, on average, against them rests in the belief that they have more of those famous Japanese traits: perseverence (ganbari) effort (doryoku), endurance (gaman) (see Heine 2003) and spirit (konjou, see the catch phrase of the second film above) than the players sitting on either side of them.

This series of films Pachipro Naniwa Ryouzanpaku 1-6 (1996-1998) stars Hiroyuki Watanabe playing the leader of a "professional" pachinko playing group. A gambling group by this name really existed. The name comes from a Chinese legend meaning a place where skilled, aficionado outlaws congregate. The Hole in the Wall meets Fu Man Chu.

Essentially all that Mr. Watanabe's character does is shoot little balls up into a hole. As you can see from his expression, however, Watanabe's character has true grit, guts, or balls, and can put them all out on the table and play to very last one.

The film series also builds on a group motif. The pachinko professionals fight as a team. I would not be surprised if those that are addicted to pachinko believe that they have the uncommon ability, uncommon konjo, to lay it all on the line for those they love, even as they waste their family finances pumping the pachinko machine.

The type of control that pachinko players hold the illusion of having, is almost as Morling (Morling, 2000; Morling & Epstein, 1997; Morling & Evered, 2006, 2007; Morling & Fiske, 1999) describes. Rather than actively changing their environment, the Japanese change or even rather negate the self, but throught doing so they wait out the storm and come through on the other side as, they delude themselves, winners.

I think that the Japanese may be engaging in true-grit-ism (konjoushugi, 根性主義; Yamagishi, 1979) a method of achieving external outcomes through self-control, rather than self-control for its own sake or harmony. No matter how much it may seem that Japanese aerobics is harmoniously self-controlling, it also achieves its stated environmental objective (Morling, 2000) of loosing weight. From the pachinko hall to the sumo stables (heya) and judo club (dojo) one can see Japanese engagining in collective self-denial, but I think that in all cases they have their eyes on the prize. Japanese self negation is not just collectivism, but a means to a personal end.

In any event, I hypothesise that gambling and problem gambling among Japanese will therefore correlate more with true-grit-ism (konjoushugi, 根性主義; Yamagishi, 1979) than illusions of (primary) control, for which scales exist (Moore & Ohtsuka, 1999; Raylu & Oei, 2004).

Possible Items for a True-Grit-ism(根性主義) scale taken from Yamagishi's paper (1979) above (English translations and some revision to the original Japanese are mine). 

In order to achieve ones goals abstinence -- being able to achieve a victory over oneself -- is the most important thing.
In order to achieve your goals, endurance and mental strenght are important.
You will achieve your goals if you carry out your duties with endurance, the power to continue, and a spirit of self-sacrifice.
If you endure and toil you can achieve happiness.
In order to be happy you need to have a strong spirit.
One can grow as a person by persisting - doing the same thing over and over again. 自己犠牲の精神を発揮することにより人間形成がなされる。 One can grow a person through the application of the spirit of self-sacrifice.
The most important strength to have is strength of sprit: the strenght to defeat ones desire, and achieve victory even over oneself.
You can win an olympic goald medal through strength of mind.

Under Langer's formulation those that have "an illusion of control" are those that suffer from the illusion that there is an easy way, a free lunch, a short cut to riches, that gamble. I suggest that in Japan it is precisely the opposite sort of people - those that believe that perseverence can get you anywhere - who end up in front of the pachinko machine. In that sense pachinko hits the best of us. I think that something should be done.

Heine, S. J. (2003). An exploration of cultural variation in self-enhancing and self-improving motivations. Nebraska symposium on motivation (Vol. 49, pp. 101–128). Retrieved from http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/nebraska.rtf
Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of personality and social psychology, 32(2), 311. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/32/2/311/
Moore, S. M., & Ohtsuka, K. (1999). Beliefs about control over gambling among young people, and their relation to problem gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 13(4), 339. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/adb/13/4/339/
Morling, B. (2000). ‘Taking’ an Aerobics Class in the US and ‘Entering’ an Aerobics Class in Japan: Primary and Secondary Control in a Fitness Context. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3(1), 73–85.
Morling, B., & Epstein, S. (1997). Compromises produced by the dialectic between self-verification and self-enhancement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(6), 1268.
Morling, B., & Evered, S. (2006). Secondary control reviewed and defined. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 269.
Morling, B., & Evered, S. (2007). The construct formerly known as secondary control: Reply to Skinner (2007).
Morling, B., & Fiske, S. T. (1999). Defining and measuring harmony control. Journal of Research in Personality, 33(4), 379–414.
Raylu, N., & Oei, T. P. S. (2004). The Gambling Related Cognitions Scale (GRCS): Development, confirmatory factor validation and psychometric properties. Addiction, 99(6), 757–769. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00753.x/full
Yamagishi, T. 山岸俊男. (1979). 根性主義-『おれについてこい!』 の内容分析. 一橋論叢, 81(2), 181–197. Retrieved from http://hermes-ir.lib.hit-u.ac.jp/rs/handle/10086/13228

The images are copyright their creators: "Pachipuro Naniwa Ryouzanpaku" (1996-1998) directed by Monna Katuso, starring Watabe HIroyuki, Ozawa Kazuyoshi, Yanagisawa Chou, Ishitsuka Hidehiko and Ishibashi Mamoru, based on a Manga by Hamada Fumio and Go Rikiya. Distributed by KSS 門奈克雄監督(1996-1998)『パチプロ浪花梁山泊(1-6)』。渡辺裕之、小沢和義、柳沢 超、石塚英彦、石橋 保 ほか主演。脚本(漫画)浜田 文太、 郷 力也 (1996)『パチプロ浪花梁山泊』。ケイエスエス

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