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Now and Zen: Japanese lotteries

Every three minutes, on average, someone in Japan lands a $100,000-plus prize in one of the lotteries.

Lotteries first started in Japan around 1630 but were eventually banned. They resurfaced in 1945 and in 1954 the handling of the main Takarakuji lottery was handed to local government divisions. “Takarakuji” roughly translated means treasure or fortune. Its main trustee is the Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, which handles sales and distribution. With the advent of online banking many lotteries are now available online.

However even with massive online purchase growth my focus for this article was the rituals of the offline patrons. It seems there are many rituals and superstitions that enable the lucky few to cash in those red-hot tickets.

The serious punters really do their homework, carefully choosing how and where they purchase their tickets. Rumor has it that the best ticket booth in the country is in Tokyo at the Nishi Ginza Depato Chansu Senta– window number 1. You can wait up to two hours in line there when, if you took a couple of steps to your right to window 2, you would be served immmediately. (In Hiroshima City, the lottery booth near the Tatemachi streetcar stop on the corner always has a long line for the Jumbo Takarakuji due to a big winning ticket sold there in the past.)

Looking through a weekend newspaper, I gathered some vital information for all lottery players. The winners of large sums of money in the Japanese lottery were asked just how they did it–what they paid special attention to and when they purchased their winning tickets. But take note: In order of popularity, these were the answers they gave. Could this be the advice you need to cash in on mega millions or powerball?

1. Used ticket booths which have had previous big winners.

2. Struck a balance between buying batches of tickets with successive numbers and random number batches.

3. Discerned a ticket booth’s atmosphere.

4. Noted the date of purchase and the ticket booth seller

5. Noted the amount of money spent, or the number of tickets.

6. Noted the direction the ticket booth was facing.

7. Noted the number of the ticket booth window.

8. Noted the time of day.

9. Considered fortune telling.

10. Noted the clothes they wore when making the purchase.

And what do those few lucky individuals do once they have won millions of Yen?

According to the paper, 42 percent saved it and 26 percent paid off debts. There was no mention of the remaining 32 percent—possibly pursuing a path of hedonism.

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