Last night as I was wandering back to the hotel and wandered through a few pachinko and pachislot halls, I was struck by the people who were watching, like the guys in this photo.
Inside the parlor I could understand the players' friends or whatever. But what about the folks gazing steadfastly from outside, through the windows?
My initial reaction was that the players they were watching at that hour near 9PM, mostly older folks were seasoned, expert players. That the spectators were watching to see How It's Done in the same way that I used to lurk in video arcades watching as some over-caffeinated guy ran the score up to the max 99,999 playing Defender.
Considering I'd always thought of pachinko as strongly random, I realized that there were subtleties of the game far beyond my grasp. What could I be missing? I asked myself while watching a grayhaired lady dump another plastic cup of balls into the hopper on her machine, her attention too focused to notice the unlit dead cigarette still in her mouth.
But a morning later and the meaning of my looking (and my pictures) has already changed as I've learned to reinterpret those "seasoned" players as kamo suckers and the spectators as "hyenas," waiting to move in if the kamo loses big and leaves an unplayed bonus round.
Another lesson in how photography like all observations can be so easily upended and all our intentions for it thwarted.