There’s nowhere like Japan for toys and collectables. This country has everything from your favourite cartoon character figurines to silly knick-knacks. If you’re wondering where the best and cheapest place to get them at is, the answer is: gachapon.
These capsule machines are popular nationwide. Now, its fame has spread overseas. People are intrigued by this idea of machines with cute toys in them, and only for pennies! Anime lovers and Japanophiles, you’re going to want to stick around. Everything you need to know about Japan’s one-of-a-kind capsule toys is just a scroll away!
What is gachapon?
So, what exactly is it? In short, gachapon is a coin-operated machine that dispenses a toy when a coin enters the machine. This word can also refer to the capsule toys themselves. The term actually comes from the sound that the dispenser makes when cranking the knob of the machine (“gasha”). Combine that with the sound of the thud when the capsule toy dispenses (“pon”). Gachapon is also sometimes known as gachapon. “Gasha” and “gacha” are both onomatopoeiae of the sound.
These capsule toys are usually ¥100 to ¥500. They’re not expensive at all! The catch is that you don’t get to choose what you get. It’s a surprise. You’ll be able to see a range of what each machine offers, though. There would be a picture at the front of the machine. If there are five options, your chances of getting the one you like are roughly 20%.
These toys that are in gachapon machines aren’t just silly toys that you’re going to throw away the next day. For both children and adults, these toys are high-quality and sometimes limited-edition goods. Collectors go crazy for them.
There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get what you want. Because of that, customers keep coming back until they complete their set.
The outlook of gachapons resembles the likes of gumball machines and vending machines in the West. One might assume that that’s where it came from. But that’s all the similarities between them. The gachapon we know and love is all thanks to Ryuzo Shigeta.
Back in the 60s, Shigeta wanted to improve a vending machine he got from the United States. He decided to put each item in a plastic container and tested it out. It was a huge hit! And the rest is history. Today, there are almost half a million gachapon in Japan alone, and the numbers are only rising.
Types of gachapon toys
So, what kind of toys can you get from gachapon? I hate to break it to you, but the question should be, “what toys can’t we get?” You can quite literally get anything from one of these machines. The most common types of toys you’d find in gachapon machines are small figurines of anime characters and Japanese pop culture products. Magnets and keychains are really common, too. There are others that offer miniature versions of games like Crocodile Teeth (I have one myself).
Don’t be surprised if you find a gachapon that gives you underwear or something similarly weird. I’ve seen a couple that’s covered with black paper and has the red “over 18 only” sign. I didn’t bother finding out what that was…
You will also be able to find machines that offer miniature versions of everyday items like furniture and condiments. You can build your own miniature house! These machines offer limited run products and the stock changes quite frequently. Customers are always back to see what new things they can add to their collection.
Honestly, listing out every single gachapon toy is impossible. There’s always something new brewing. I have no doubt a new type of gachapon machine is in the works as we speak.
Where to find gachapon?
So where can you find these gachapons? You don’t really have to look for long to find one. Most of the time, you can find gachapons outside stores on random streets throughout the whole country. If you’re not in the mood to stroll around, arcades definitely have them. Stores that sell manga, anime, games and electronics would have them nearby as well.
If you’re really in pursuit of them, Japan’s capital city Tokyo is the best place to start. It’s basically the mecca of gachapons with rows and rows of those machines. Tokyo Station has Tokyo Gachapon Street, where there are more than 50 unique gachapon machines lined up. Here, there’s everything from anime and manga character figurines to random trinkets.
Akiharabara is another gachapon heaven. This neighbourhood is famous for its abundant anime and manga shops. Little do people know it’s also one of the best spots for gachapon. At Akiharabara Gachapon Kaikan, there are over 500 gachapon machines for your choosing. Every month, the stocks and designs change. This is the place that has the biggest variety of gachapon toys!
You could also pop by Akihabara Radio Kaikan. On the fifth floor, there’s a shop of one of the most well-known companies for anime figurines. Called Kaiyodo, it has over 60 capsule toy machines and have quite the range of toys. Look out for collaboration items that you can only get here!
Osaka’s go-to spot for gachapon is in the Nipponbashi area. In and amongst the other shopping attractions, you’ll find dozens of gachapon machines of the most popular types out there.
Long story short, gachapon machines are everywhere. You won’t leave Japan without coming across a few rows at least once a day for your entire trip.
Gachapon has quite the significance in Japanese culture. Getting capsule toys from these machines are not only a unique experience but they make great souvenirs. They’re cheap, high-quality and one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re an anime lover or just interested interested in all things Japan, be sure to include gachapon on your Japan to-do list!