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Thread: The White Bird and the Deep Blue Sea

  1. #1
    Eye Shooter Rival's Avatar
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    Default The White Bird and the Deep Blue Sea

    Our understanding of Pachinko could be best described by a quote from Shakespeare; "For now we see through the glass darkly". That is to say, as westerners we have a very limited understanding of pacific rim cultural influences, and see things through our own cultural "lens". A little bit of research has turned up an interesting narrative about the machines that we as enthusiasts see every day.

    Although not the largest producer of pachinko machines, more 1970's Nishijin-branded machines have found their way to the US than any others. This was purely happenstance, the importers purchased most of the machines from Tokyo where Nishijin had a dominant presence. Had they gotten them from the Ginza area we would all be repairing and restoring Ginza-brand or New Gin machines, and Nishijins would be the oddballs. But we got Nishijins, and lots of them.

    Early to mid 1970's Nishijin machines came in two basic models: Shiroi kamome and Aoi Umi. These names can be considered analogous to car models that span across years, such as "Camero" or "Supra". However, unlike automobiles that which have a new design each year, pachinko machines did not follow such a regimented release schedule. A new design of Shiroi Kamome might be released in March of 1972, and then a newer one October of the same year. It is for this reason we see multiple designs for a single year, and a single design spanning what appears to be two years. This has been a point of confusion among enthusiasts for years. For convention, the date of a machine should be considered as the year it was released, not necessarily the date on the tax tag.

    The Shiroi Kamome model spanned over a decade. Many enthusiasts have for years lumped it into group of machines which drop the win ball out the bottom and called it a "B" style machine. "Shiroi Kamome" translates as "White Bird", and indeed the seagull motifs often find their way onto them in various places. In many Pachinko parlors (even today!) one can find seagull motifs everywhere. Symbolic white bird mobiles often hang from the ceiling.

    Being an island nation, Japan historically looked to the sea for sustenance. There is a longstanding cultural belief that fate would signal good luck by sending a white bird to fly over you or your home. This is directly traceable to the fact that these birds would circle schools of fish, so that fishing boats could find a good harvest. Thus, the Shiroi Kamome is branded as a "Good Fortune' machine, and appeals to the superstitious player. Not a bad branding scheme!

    The Aoi Umi machines are what many refer to as model "A" machines. Aoi Umi means "Blue Sea", another cultural archetype. It envisions the depths of the sea from which sustenance and life comes, and these machines were named to elicit this metaphor. A player could win and provide himself bounty from the sea, the riches below.

    Many of the features on the playfield refer to Japanese fables and myths and tell a story we here in west fail to understand. Why is the crab snapping at the stone? What the heck is the monkey doing to the alligator? It makes no sense to us, but to the Japanese they are stories they all learned as children. Perhaps as the years go by we will learn more about the symbolism behind these machines, and gain a greater understand of the genre. But for today I can only donate this small part of my knowledge for the community in general.

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  3. #2
    Pachi Puro mxfaiman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The White Bird and the Deep Blue Sea

    Very valid points you have there.

    Though I will put my thoughts out there that not every model A machine is branded Aoi Umi and the Shiroi Kamome model didn't start till 73. Though I'm sure you are very correct on them being "models" like a certain style within the brand.

    100 machines and counting...

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  5. #3
    Eye Shooter Rival's Avatar
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    Default Re: The White Bird and the Deep Blue Sea

    Actually, the earliest Shiroi Kamome I have located to date was a 1971. See:

    http://pachinkoplanet.com/zencart/in...roducts_id=153

    It is indeed a front overflow, but not a conversion. I have also restored a good dozen or so 1972 Shiroi Kamome machines, most are marked as "M-11" models, but a few said "M-11 Shiroi Kamome". This indicates that the M-11 and Shiroi Kamome are interchangable. No 1970's recycler machine ever said anything other than Aoi Umi, although some do appear to be unmarked... unmarked at least to someone who cannot read Kanji.

    Shiroi Kamome machines may have been produced by Nishijin prior to 1971, and the reason we never see them is because they never made it to the USA. The 1971 listed above is still the only one I have ever seen.
    Last edited by Rival; 09-09-2015 at 08:54 PM.

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