This week’s Metropolis has a feature on underground gambling. It’s an interesting read:
The gambling professional is, in general, not who you think he is. For a pro gambler, Rei looks pretty normal. He has an average build, wears average clothes and works a regular day job. He lives in a messy six-mat apartment. The paint on the walls is peeling off, and his stuff is strewn about the room. In the corner lie a couple of duffel bags thrown there the previous night. By all appearances, it’s a standard Japanese bachelor’s apartment.
Except that those bags contain enough ¥10,000 bills to wallpaper the entire room.
Later on in the article, there are short notes about gambling in Japan. Academics may be surprised to read this:
Doing research on Japan? There’s a good chance you’re being supported by the gambling industry. Every year The Nippon Foundation donates roughly ¥30 trillion to charitable and educational causes. It all comes from boat racing.
For the most part, this is true. The Nippon Foundation, the largest philanthropic organization in Japan, receives over 3% of kyotei (motorboat racing) annual revenues. According to the 2006 Government Whitepaper on Leisure, the total market for 2005 for kyotei was 978 billion yen. In the early 90s, it was about double this. More details can be found in David Plotz’s Pachinko Nation. (Incidentally, Plotz’s research was supported by a Nippon Foundation grant.)
Of course, this isn’t to criticize the foundation itself, which has supported good works around the globe. Apparently some academics in Japan do look down on their grants, however. Last year, a friend of mine was faced with the choice of either a Fulbright or a Nippon Foundation grant for her dissertation research. When she told an academic friend of hers about this, the friend closed the door and quietly told her that she risked a small amount of stigma were she to go with the latter.
If this is how some Japanese academics deal with researchers whose grant is merely peripheral to gambling, I wonder how they will treat someone whose research is on gambling…