A Lottery Stall Near Asakusa

  • A Lottery Stall Near Asakusa 00:00

During my research in Japan, there was one more interesting phenomenon I encounter other than the Pachinko machines. It was the lottery. Yes, lottery seemed to also become an inseparable part of Japanese people everyday life. Even though not all Japanese people do it, of course. On sidewalks in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, you could easily find lottery counters that openly offered its’ ‘commodity’. What’s interesting was, there were usually announcements and advertisements from these counters. The function of course was to attract passerby to buy lotteries. 

According to several historical journals, lotteries were long traditions in Japanese society. Lottery, which translates to takarakuji in Japanese, has been around since the 1600s in the Tokugawa shogun era, before it was banned in 1842. Interestingly, in the end of world war II Japanese government made the policy of making legalized lottery called Imeniemuyu Takarakuji (which means fortune lottery). The first legalized lottery ticket was first sold on 29th October 1945. I found an interesting fact about lotteries and Japanese government regulation in the site named yabai.com:

According to Chapter 23 of the Criminal Code of Japan, gambling is generally a banned activity, with a few exceptions for certain motorsports and horse racing. Illegal casinos, mahjong parlors, and mobile gambling sites have caused several gamblers and owners quite the headache with the local governments.

Interestingly, there are also a few special laws that allow gambling in terms of football pools, public sports, and the oh-so-famous lottery. Through these regulations, members of the Japanese community and tourists are free to satisfy their gambling needs, while the Japanese governments, both national and local, benefit by having another form of income.

Back to sounds. I recorded these advertisement announcement sounds from lottery stands near Sensoji Temple, Asakusa Tokyo. The sound that is heard is the recording of man and woman voice, broadcasted through speakers that weren’t so big. The reach of the sound was only around tens of meters, enough to attract passerby. You could hear the word takarakuji! from the male ad reader which was accompanied by the enthusiasm of a woman followed by information about the price of lottery. In the surrounding area, there are sounds of conversations of people walking back and forth around Asakusa district.   

Lottery seemed as though it gave hope through drawing luck. Through chances and uncertainties. As an Indonesian, I felt that this lottery phenomenon in Japan was very interesting: the people of Japan who were known to be very disciplined, hardworking, punctual, and well-planned also had this little hobby of uncertainties. In flashes this reminded me of omikuji, a piece of paper with fortunes that usually were easy to find in Shinto and Buddhist temples in Japan.  

Meanwhile in South East Asia, lottery hawkers were spread out through the streets of Thailand. The difference was, the lottery stall in Japan was neat and organized. It really looked like a shop. This also reminded me of my childhood. Long ago our village was plagued by lottery gambling, it was called rajakaya. Everyone would talk about it enthusiastically in cakruk (small guard house/meeting point in a village) and foodstalls for hours. Their voice were outbursting. Lottery numbers were very easy to find at the time. What number would come out tomorrow? Everybody gave their predictions with their own arguments which were often unreasonable or didn’t make any sense. . There were those who said they had a dream, for example. All of them were drowned between fiction and reality. Intriguing! The lottery was indeterminacy. It’s like the concept of John Cage’s music.

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Sounds: Japan