Every child, at some point in their lifetime will experience the joy of placing their very first coin into a gumball machine. From that moment forward, every single toy vending machine becomes a beacon of light when they reluctantly visit the grocery store or mall with their parents. My first 5 years of parenting sounded something like this:
“Mom, can I have a quarter?”
Eventually my kids grew up and moved on to larger more sophisticated toys and their obsession with those wonderful little capsules faded.
But, then we went to Japan and encountered our first Gashapon.
Gashapon or Gachapon as it’s called in Japan, refer to variety of vending machine-dispensed capsule toys popular in Japan. “Gasha” (or “gacha”) for the sound of a crank on the toy vending machine, and “pon” for the sound of the toy capsule dropping into the receptacle. Gashapon may describe both the machines themselves and the toys obtained from them. What’s unique about Japan’s capsules is that they aren’t only for children, they’re loved by adults as well as!
The Japanese are truly obsessed the mystery of the what’s inside of each capsule.
What we consider as just cheap toy-capsules in the US, are valuable collectables in Japan. Constructed from high-grade PVC plastic, many of the items contain high quality toys like anime figures which are carefully painted. Machines prices vary between (100 to 500 yen, equivalent to $1 – $5) based on the items inside. Capsules come in various sizes with the larger capsules being more expensive. We just scoped them all out and found a few that we’d like to collect. Some of them with cute items and some just flat out crazy (such as cats in sushi).
Lou Lou wanted to collect all 6 gashapons from the Nyamko Kitchen. Each gashapon cost 200 yen and after spending 3400 yen she finally collected 6 of them, with 11 that were duplicates. They honestly make for great souvenirs since they are small, light-weight and inexpensive.
You can find everything from light-up keychains, rubber food, cute erasers, miniature famous landmarks and even little people doing yoga poses. The varieties are endless and again, many of them not only for children.
So the next time you’re visiting Japan, make sure you save that wallet full of yen to collect gachapons for your friends and family back home.
And beware, you may get addicted to it! GASHA! PON!