Discovering Japan's Most Unique Gachapon: From Artistic to Absurd

by Tania Hidayat

Rows of capsule toys (gachapon) in Japan

A trip to the local supermarket or shopping mall in Japan will offer views of capsule vending machines known as gachapon, gacha-gacha, or gashapon. These vending machines specifically provide small toys to those who insert coins. Unlike in other countries, these Japanese cabin toys are aimed at adults and children. While the pricing is relatively cheap (¥100 to ¥500 per item), the items are high-quality, providing additional incentive to insert coins and select a prize.

Each gacha machine provides a different type of prize, from miniature items to figures of popular anime characters. While many machines include exciting collectible items, some Japanese gachapon machines venture into the absurd with items like underwear. 

Below, we explore the world of Japanese gachapon, from its name to items you may find in these fun machines.

What Does Gachapon Mean?

Blue capsule toy

 

The name "gachapon" is actually an onomatopeia in this case. It breaks down into two Japanese words: "gacha/gasha," which is an imitation of the sound the machines make when the crank is spinning, and "pon," which is the sound of the prize falling into the delivery bin. Now, whenever you visit a Japanese gachapon, you can listen to the machines' distinct sounds as the prize makes its way to you and compare it to the name of the machines.

Is it Gachapon or Gashapon?

Rows of capsule toys GACHA machines in Tokyo, Japan

 

There are two names which refer to the same affordable toy vending machine: gachapon and gashapon. Both versions of the name refer to the sounds made by the machines. However, gachapon is the correct name for any of these vending machines. Gashapon is a brand name that refers to specific machines that have been registered to Bandai Namco, the original creator of these machines and a beloved producer of toys and games in Japan.

Understanding Gachapon Machines

If you're new to the world of gachapon, the basics below will help you understand these cute (and occasionally bizarre) vending machines.

Basics of Gachapon

These popular Japanese vending machines, known as gachapon, gashapon, gacha gacha, or gacha machines, are beloved by people of all ages. Their name is derived from Japanese onomatopoia, which refers to the sounds made by the machine. 

Design and Operation

Woman operating a gachapon machine

 

As far as their design and operation, gachapon appears similar to the candy vending machines in America, though a bit larger. Typically, the machines include a clear dome that offers insight into which prizes are available through images or actual views of the toys themselves. When a user is ready to purchase a toy, yen coins are inserted, the crank is turned, and a randomized capsule pops out of the machine, ready to open. The randomization of the toy received provides an element of fun and surprise, increasing the appeal for children and adults alike. 

Maintenance and Technology

Perhaps you are curious about the inner workings of a gachapon machine. If that's the case, know they are quite easy to maintain, typically only requiring prize refills and occasional cleaning. While many gachapon machines remain simple and traditional, others have incorporated newer technology, allowing users to pay electronically or via a phone app.

The Most Premium Gachapons in the World

Premium gachapon with game consoles, video games, toys, and figures for prizes

Image credit: mangasouko-koga.com

While most gachapon you find in Japan is affordable, with prices between ¥100 to ¥500, premium gachapon machines exist with prizes ranging from ¥800 to ¥2000. Other, less expensive gachapon are intended to be cute and quirky, while these more expensive gachapon prizes center on quality. Generally, these items focus on anime figures, though other more premium items are also available. These premium machines often work with payment phone apps and rechargeable payment cards versus coins. 

Some of the most expensive options available in these machines include a PS5, an entire anime/manga series, and even higher-quality jewelry. Regardless of the premium machine chosen, expect a high-quality item to fall into the bin. For larger items, the gachapon pods will typically contain a key that opens a locker with the item inside.

The Best-Selling Gachapon of All Times

Koppu no Fuchiko series

Image credit: kitan.jp

Throughout the years, different types of gachapon have appealed to users, from figures featuring musclemen and sumo wrestlers to prank items such as fake knives. In particular, options that depict characters from popular anime/manga series in various poses and outfits seem to remain popular, especially among adults. A few examples of top gachapon include Star Wars Imperial stormtroopers and characters from the beloved show Pokemon. Another best-selling item is the Koppu no Fuchiko character, which depicts a woman in office wear who has outstretched arms, allowing her to "precariously" balance on the edge of any cup. This particular gachapon has been purchased upwards of 20 million times in various poses.

The Biggest Gachapon Machine

The biggest gachapon machine

Image credit: singaporerecords.com

The largest gachapon machine ever recorded was constructed in a Singapore mall and was created as a collaboration between Pop Mart and Marina Square, celebrating a new launch known as the Sweet Bean collection. This giant machine is featured in the Asia Book of Records and was in place during a Christmas event in 2023. It measured 2.2 m x 2.2 m and 4.5 m high, with more than 4,500 prizes. This particular gachapon featured mystery collectible items, which were a surprise for each user. Unlike other machines, users earn a prize from the machine by spending $180+ at the mall.

Gachapon Inspired by Artists

Another unique version of capsule toys lies in the options inspired by renowned artists. For example, some machines carry mini toys inspired by famed paintings like The Scream in creative formats, such as figures and animals in the same pose. Other gacha prizes are crafted by well-known artists, such as Fuchiko, a series designed by the anime artist Katsuki Tanaka featuring a lady in office wear who can dangle from the edge of a glass. 

The Most Weird Gachapon Examples

Candy-shaped hats for cats capsule toys

 

While many gachapon users gravitate toward cool or cute items, there are some who find appeal in odd and unusual offerings. Luckily, plenty of absurd offerings are available, from a miniature sushi conveyor belt that utilizes the packaging as part of the toy to hats for a pet cat. Other odd offerings include rings made to look like tins of cat food, line partitions for an office desk, underwear for smartphones, and toy COVID testers. Some of these weird gachapon toys are educational, others funny, yet each provides a different appeal for users. 

Kobito Zukan Gachapon

Kobito-Zukan The Dwarf Encyclopedia 15th anniversary gachapon, 6 total in this collection. Japan's famous children's book is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the characters being created in mini figure form for gashapon! Collect 1 of 6. (fair warning, they look pretty unsettling).

Types possible:
・Saintly Red Wing
・Hiding Peach Bottom
・Cow Dad
・Little Flower Head
・Little Plum
・Red Mushroom

Size: 5.5cm~

$9.99

An excellent example of an odd gachapon you may find in a Japanese machine is Kobito Zukan Gachapon, which are various characters with exaggerated features that offer a combination of cute and odd. These particular kobito zukan gachapon are based on characters from the The Dwarf Encyclopedia. Expect to receive one of six mini "unsettling" gachapon characters after a store checkout.

Cute Animal Gachapon

Animal Vegetable Fairies Gachapon

Discover the whimsical world of animals reimagined as vegetables, featuring a unique collection of five enchanting Fairy-like creatures!

 

This gachapon series includes:
• Cabbage Dog
• White Corn Owl
• Mini Bok Choy Serval
• Shiitake Penguin
• Broccoli Bull

 

*Please note: the figure inside each capsule is randomized and cannot be chosen.

$9.99

One of the most popular types of gachapon prizes is adorable animals. These range from weird to funny to cute, offering animals in different scenarios, poses, and even clothing as prizes. One such example is the Animal Sauna series, which includes various animals posed as if they are enjoying a sauna visit (complete with a towel). Other options include Fishing Cats Gachapon, with a randomized cat fishing prize, or Animal Vegetable Fairies Gachapon, adorable animals reimagined in the form of fairy-like vegetable creatures such as a cabbage dog. 

Adorable Gachapon Miniatures

Denny's Japan Official Mini Figures Gachapon

About this gachapon:
• Denny's family restaurant Japan exclusive mini food figures gachapon.
• Get (1) out of (5) hyper-realistic food figures at random.

[Possible types]
Devil's brownie sundae
Bread and corn soup
Hamburg
Cheese omurice
Denny's sign

Size: 5cm

$8.99

Perhaps one of the cutest trends in gachapon is the miniature items. These gachapon feature things normally found in day-to-day life but on a much smaller scale. For example, you may find a tiny rickshaw, a small cement mixer, tiny playing cards, mini food items (like toy stew bowls), and more in gachapon machines. These minis range from food to objects and even miniature versions of areas like hotel rooms. One such example is Denny's Japan Official Mini Figures Gachapon, which includes random items from the Denny's Japan menu like cheese omurice.

Anime Gachapon Collectibles

One Piece Fruit 16th Sea Battle Gachapon

Embark on an epic adventure with our One Piece Fruit 16th Sea Battle Gachapon! Discover the power of Devil Fruits in miniature form, featuring iconic abilities from the beloved series. Collect them all and prepare for battles of epic proportions!

 

*Please note: the figure inside each capsule is randomized and cannot be chosen.

$14.99

As mentioned, anime gachapon remains one of the top choices for users. In the 1990s, colorful gachapon from the SD Gundam series launched, spurning a large boom in gachapon, as it provided options geared toward adult anime aficionados. Whether characters in gachapon machines are from retro anime shows or new shows, they continue to appeal to those of all ages. 

With the recent release of the One Piece live-action series, the characters have become a top choice for gachapon machine users. The One Piece Fruit 16th Sea Battle Gachapon allows gachapon lovers to bring home a random character from the series, such as Monkey D. Luffy and Shanks. 

Jujutsu Kaisen Sleepy Gachapon

We have this extremely kawaii Jujutsu Kaisen gachapon (gashapon) collection. Look at how cute our favorite characters look before going to bed. Get 1 out 5 possible figures.

Size: 4.5 cm

$6.99

Another top option is the Jujutsu Kaisen Sleepy Gachapon, which features characters from the Jujutsu Kaisen series in "sleepy" positions. These gachapon include the main characters getting into bed, with some even wearing sleep masks. This version of figures is particularly kawaii, aka cute.

Of course, Demon Slayer must also be mentioned, as it's one of the most-watched anime series. Fans of this series can celebrate their love for Nezuko and her companions with this Demon Slayer Torso Gachapon, offering 3D versions of the beloved characters' costumes in the show.

Conclusion: Embrace the Gachapon Craze with Sugoi Mart

Whether you prefer quirky gachapon items, collectibles, or funny/educational toys, there's bound to be at least one gachapon toy that fits your preferences. From miniature food items to anime character figures, it's no wonder Japan's gacha machine collection is considered the best in the world. 

Explore Sugoi Mart's Gachapon selection to begin or continue a Japanese gachapon collection easily. With 30+ gachapon prizes and items, this extensive collection provides ample opportunity to order an array of fun items for yourself and loved ones. Discover even more gachapon fun by placing orders of the Sugoi Mart Gachapon Lucky Bag, a mystery bag which includes an impressive 10-13 capsule toys. This mystery gachapon bag includes the opportunity to get exciting toys from top brands and shows like Pokemon, Sanrio, and Demon Slayer. 

Head to Sugoi Mart to enhance your gachapon collection now and discover the wide range of wonders hidden in these capsule toys, straight from Japan!


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Discovering Japan's Most Unique Gachapon: From Artistic to Absurd

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