In Japan, you’re bound to see long rows of brightly colored vending machines that hold dozens of small capsule balls containing toys, keychains, and more. But if you think they’re just for kids, you’ve got the wrong idea. Welcome to the world of Gachapon!
Gachapon are brightly colored, coin-operated vending machines that are stocked full of capsule balls that each hold an individual prize. In 1960, Ryuzo Shigeta, or Gacha-gacha Ojiisan (literally “Gachapon Grandfather) as he’s called now, got his hands on a coin-operated prize machine similar to the ones seen outside of grocery stores.
He then filled it up with capsule balls and created the first Gachapon machine in Japan. Today, most Gachapon machines are categorized by series, and it’s all about luck when it comes to collecting the toys inside. For example, a machine of your favorite magical girl anime may have 10 different characters inside, so getting your personal favorite character is all luck.
Some people even say that it’s the randomness of it that makes Gachapon so fun!
The randomness of Gachapon has also made it into the gaming world. Many mobile games these days use what is called the Gacha mechanic where players spend in-game currency to receive a random virtual item.
Want the same excitement of a gachapon with a few more guaranteed kawaii (cute) items? Check out YumeTwins! YumeTwins sends Japanese character goods including Japanese plushies, stationery, home goods, and more, from Tokyo right to your door!
The word Gachapon comes from the sounds that the machine makes when a toy comes out. When you crank the handle to make the machine accept your coin, the sound the machine makes in Japanese is “gacha-gacha.” Then, when the capsule toys come out of the machine, it makes a “pon!” sound. Thus, the name Gachapon.
The machine and the toys inside of it can also be called gashapon. The main difference is that gachapon usually refers to just the machine.
Well, it’s very simple! The first thing to do is to find a Gachapon machine that has something you’re interested in. Each Gachapon machine will tell you how many coins are needed in order to get a prize.
Prices can range from ¥100 to ¥500 ($0.80 USD to $4 USD) for smaller prizes and bigger or higher quality toys, respectively. In recent years, there have also been some luxury Gachapon machines that cost ¥800 to ¥2000 ($6.40 USD to $16 USD) and accept Japan’s rechargeable IC Cards or smartphone apps as payment.
Once the payment has been accepted, simply crank the handle a few times until you see one of the capsule balls come out and voila, that’s how you use a Gachapon machine!
Honestly, they’re not that hard to find in Japan. The moment you step off the airplane and enter the airport, you’re bound to see a few of them in the shopping area. Gachapon machines are so common in Japan you can often find them in department stores.
In some areas, like Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and the famous Akihabara district, you can find shops that are stacked wall-to-wall with Gachapon machines. The same goes for Tokyo Station, where you can find the Tokyo Gashapon Street with around 100 machines.
Pretty much anything. While anime and manga-related merch are the most popular stuff on the market, you can find plenty of other prizes. Some cute options include animals, animals doing quirky things like bowing or acting as office workers, food, insects, dinosaurs, even miniature home appliances and electronics.
There are plenty of food-themed ones. We particularly love the onigiri (Japanese rice balls), Japanese cup ramen, and sushi keychains.
You can even find bizarre cultural references like the infamous kancho (the Japanese butt poke prank) being immortalized in plastic. One of the recent trends are things that you can attach onto your smartphone, desk, computer, and even your cup!
Since Gachapon series cycle rather quickly, chances are that if you go back in a week, machines might have something else in them. If you find something you like, you have to act quickly!
While the toys were originally cheap, lacking in detail, and only came in one color, these days Gachapon toys are noted for being both durable and high-quality. It’s what makes them so collectable! While plastic is the common material used, there are some Gachapon toys that use metal as well.
And they’re not just for kids. Not at all in fact! Even adults can enjoy Gachapon. In fact, there are several series that are aimed at adults that feature their favorite anime characters in things like swimwear.
Ah yes, Fuchiko. Ever heard of her? If not, let me explain.
Koppu no Fuchiko is a Gachapon series that was released in 2012 by Kitan Club. Her name is actually a pun. Fuchi can mean “the rim of a cup” in Japanese, so the name can literally be translated as “Fuchiko on the cup’s edge.”
Fuchiko is usually portrayed as an office lady dressed in a blue dress and in a variety of playful poses. However, each one of Fuchiko’s figurines can be balanced off the edge of the cup. Fuchiko’s popularity exploded on social media, becoming particularly popular with young women.
Today, Fuchiko’s sales have surpassed over 20 million figures with new ideas and designs to keep Fuchiko as fresh and vibrant as ever. Not bad for a Gachapon toy! Check out the hashtag #コップのフチ子 (read koppu-no-fuchiko) to see how creative the Japanese have gotten with Fuchiko!
Do you have any favorite Gachapon toys? Where is your favorite place to play? Tell us in the comments below!
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