The fluorescent pink cherry blossoms look as if they hang here all year round. This may be because at Rosemary, Tokyo’s only remaining Smartball parlour, the mood is eternally Spring. People come to revisit their youth, or bring their grandchildren to play. Local kids gather on their own. Families form crowds around one or two machines and egg each other on.
Miki Egawa bustles up and down between the 59 machines, setting customers up to play, or freeing stuck balls. This is the original form of pachinko. Seven machines are permanently out of order. When they all break down, she says, that’s the end of it. The manufacturer no longer exists. That’s one reason we only open on weekends. Another is that there aren’t so many customers. This sunny Saturday is an exception.
When they all break down, she says, that’s the end of it. The manufacturer no longer exists.
A game costs 300-yen for 70 balls. Egawa starts your machine, sending blue marbles tumbling from the chute. They pool together at the front of the glass before you fire them up the channel. The balls bounce off pins and into different holes to score. A good hole triggers a flood of extra marbles. It’s just for fun. No cash prizes.
Egawa began working here 10 years ago to help out her father-in-law, whose family has run Rosemary since 1950. She is from Taiwan, speaks a direct blend of Japanese and English, and is infectiously cheerful. She met her husband while studying piano at Musashino arts university. His specialty was shakuhachi and koto.
The glass-on-glass sound of the rolling marbles makes a warm sort of clatter, not a cold metallic roar, as in a modern pachinko parlour. You also hear people laughing. That’s something you’re not likely to encounter in today’s gambling-driven game.
Rosemary is on Rokku Broadway, Asakusa. Open Sat, Sun from noon