The giant bowling pins on top of Japanese buildings often serve a second, hidden purpose

Your eye ain’t the only thing they’re supposed to catch.

bowling alleys are incredibly easy to find in Japan. That’s not to say they’re everywhere, but if there’s one in your vicinity, you’ll often be able to spot it right away, because chances are it has a giant bowling pin on top.

This exterior style is particularly common in Round 1. Branches of the entertainment center chain usually also have arcades, karaoke boxes, and pool and darts areas, but it’s a bowling pin that sits on the roof by about 70% of the 99 Round 1 locations in Japan. Obviously, the pin works as an advertisement, but it’s not just meant to catch the eye. Turns out a lot of these pins are there for catch lightning also.

According to Japanese building codes, a building over 20 meters (65.6 feet) high must have a lightning rod at its peak. 20 meters would correspond to the sixth floor of an apartment building, and with the higher interior ceilings of a commercial building like Round 1, it is quite easy to exceed 20 meters, especially if there are also other tenants in the building. So for Round 1 pitches that are over 20 meters high and have a bowling pin on their roof, the tip of the pin has a lightning rod protruding from it.

The protrusion isn’t always noticeable at ground level, but Round 1’s brand management department recently confirmed the lightning rod functionality of its roof pins. There is a bit of a chicken and egg here though. Normally, if a building is less than 20 meters high, there is no lightning rod. However, even if the main structure itself is below this limit, if there are antennas, advertisements, or other things attached to the building that extend more than 20 meters above the ground, then the lightning rod requirement comes into play. It is therefore possible that in addition to the branches of round 1 which already needed a lightning rod and therefore integrated it into the roof pin, there may also be branches on which it is the pin itself which places them beyond 20 meters. Anyway, these pins are not only advertisements, but often also security features.

Source: J-Town Net via Livedoor News via Otakomu
Top image: Wikipedia/MW
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