Japanese Capsule Toys (Gachapon)

Gachapon is a type of surprise toy or collectible placed inside of a plastic container that is purchased at random from a machine. The buyer will not know what they are buying until they open it. Some gachapon vending machines sell themed toys that are often collected by children and adults.

About gachapon

Gashapon (ガシャポン), also called gachapon (ガチャポン), are a type of toy vending machine-dispensed plastic capsule items that market tiny collectibles inside and set toys that popular in Japanese culture.

Gachapon gets its name from the sound that the machine makes when you turn the handle (gacha) and then the machine dispenses the capsule (pon). Gachapon is a type of collectible toy or item whereby you have a machine containing a number of capsules that sometimes cannot often be seen through hence, it is sometimes a surprise as to which item you have purchased.

The buyer will then not know what part of the set they have bought until they open the capsule, meaning that gachapon is both a form of shopping, blind purchase, and a type of game of chance.

Gachapon has become increasingly popular in Japan throughout recent years after being introduced into the country by influence from the United States in 1977 by the toy company Bandai founded in the year 1950.

Bandai Toy Manufacturer Official Site

In the beginning, the machines mainly sold children’s toys but as their popularity grew manufacturers began to include a whole range of other items such as collectibles, manga figurines, and some even dispensing jewelry.

However, because these products are usually much higher in quality than those found in America, the price is slightly higher too. In Japan, gachapon can cost anywhere from 100 yen up to 500 yen (about $1-$5 USD) depending on the type of product inside as well as the location of the machine. 

Where to find gachapon

Due to their popularity, gachapon can be found all over Japan. However, there are some spots where you are more likely to find them than others. For example, train stations and malls are good examples of where you can typically find many gachapon machines. 

For example, in Tokyo, gachapon machines are easily found at Tokyo station or at Akihabara station. In fact, Akihabara is a location well-known for its connection to manga and anime, meaning that many of the gachapon machines here are also connected to this theme. 

Arcades are also another good location to look for gachapon machines as well as the shop Akihabara gachapon kaikan which specializes in capsule-style toys. In fact, anywhere that is popular with tourists is almost certain to have at least one gachapon machine available. 

How to use gachapon machines

Although gachapon machines are actually rather easy and simple to use it can be tricky if you do not read Japanese.

The machines typically only take 100 yen coins and so you will need to make sure that you have the right change on you before purchasing a capsule. Normally the machines are located in busy areas or arcades machines so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get change.

Once you have the right amount of money you will need to make the decision about which capsule you want to purchase. You can usually make your decision by looking at the pictures on the front of the machines, here you will be able to see all of the items that you could possibly get as part of a set.

However, keep in mind that the whole point of gachapon machines is that they are random and you may not get exactly the one that you want. 

Once you have made your choice, insert the correct number of coins into the coin slot on the front of the machine. Then the fun can begin. Turn the handle in the direction displayed on the machine until your prize falls out at the bottom. Reach into the slot to collect your toy.

Once you have your capsule you will need to remove any packaging, such as tape or stickers, open the plastic container and claim your prize. Normally the gachapon machines have a recycle basket to allow people to dispose of the containers but if there are not any then simply hang on to it until you reach a trash can. 

You can play the machine as many times as you want if you want more items or you didn’t get the part of the set you wanted with the one that you received. However, remember that you may still not get the item that you want no matter how many times you turn the handle. 

Gachapon items

There is no set toys that you can get from a gachapon machine and so you can collect all sorts of different items that may be specific to a particular location or associated with the gachapon machine the city is in.

For example, one of the most popular types of items that you can get from gachapon machines is animal toys. These toys are small figurines that are purely decorative. Cats and dogs are among the most common and loved versions of these toys.

Little keychains are also very popular items to receive in gachapon capsules and these often come in the form of food. These miniature PVC food replicas make adorable additions to any key chain. 

Not only can you find cute and adorable figurines within gachapon capsules, but also more useful items such as pouches. There is no limit to the number of different items that you can find inside of gachapon machines and so if you are looking for a certain type of item the chances are that you can find it.

Some gachapon items are even highly sought after as collectibles due to the nature of the machines and the rarity of certain items. 

Final Thoughts

Gachapon is a great way to inject a little bit of fun into your day out in Japan. The chance-based shopping experience makes a great game and the cute little toy or collectible that you receive in the end are often very high quality and can brighten up a desk or bag.

With gachapon it is important to remember that you do not have a choice over which item you will receive and so you should be prepared to receive an item that you did not prefer.

Gashapon Online Shop (Based In The USA)

Fortunately, all machines have a picture list of all of the possible set items on the front of the machine so that you can make an informed choice about which machine you choose to use. And with enough attempts, you can usually get the item you want eventually.

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.