Silver Ball Planet is now Japan’s pinball mecca, and being the biggest pinball arcade outside the U.S. is no empty boast. Opened in December 2013, the space in Big Step, Shinsaibashi started with about 30 machines and has more than doubled to over 70, with plans for further additions soon.
If there’s been a popular comic book, or American pop-culture TV show or movie, you can bet a pinball machine has been made for it, and chances are you can find it at Silver Ball Planet.
Be prepared for the tidal wave of nostalgia as you step into this pinball machine hall of fame. Classics such as Batman, Terminator 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Indiana Jones are all waiting to entertain you.
You’ll find the best-selling pinball machine of all time, The Addams Family (1991), next to newer machines based on popular icons in today’s movies such as Iron Man (2010) and X-Men (2012).
Housing so many games takes an impressive space. Red cement floors and white walls encase this space which is dotted with black couches for taking a break from the action. American movies are projected onto the walls giving it the feel of a New York City loft.
Of course, the Western atmosphere is not by chance. Yuske Namba, Creative Director of Big Step and genuine pinball enthusiast, has crafted this mood in the hopes of reminding Osakans of the original Amemura vibe, and bringing to Japan not just pinball, but the culture it was born out of.
“This is Amemura, America Town. These pinball machines represent Western pop culture and I want to bring this to a new generation of Japanese.”
“It makes me feel good to see a father teaching his son or daughter to play pinball, a young couple enjoying a drink on one of the couches after playing a game together, or a group of girls taking pictures with the machines shouting “kawai!” as they try something that is new and part of a culture they enjoy.”
Silver Ball Planet has something for everyone. The venue hosts private parties and even monthly IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association) tournaments on the last Saturday of every month with no entry fee; guests just pay per game as they go. This attracts some of the best players in Japan, and competitors as far as Hong Kong are known to make the trip.
But rest assured the tournaments aren’t just for the pro’s. Everybody, Japanese and Western, pro and novice, all come together to play in this space. Even the very top-ranked players are often more than keen to share their strategies for each table, because each has its own quirks, and are happy giving tips to new players and new friends.
So get on down to Big Step in Amemura and climb the stairs to Silver Ball Planet where good fun and nostalgia await you.
Silver Ball Planet
• Open: Every day 11am–8pm
• Closed: New Year’s Day
• Tel: 06-6258-5002
• Cost: Free Entry; ¥100 per game
• Location: 3F Big Step in American Village (Amemura) near Triangle Park
• Access: Midosuji Subway Line, Shinsaibashi Stn, Exit 7 (3-min walk); Yotsubashi Stn, Exit 5 (3-min walk)
• Website: big-step.co.jp/pinball
• Facebook: silverballplanet