Friday, November 30, 2012

Gashapon: Japanese for "toy gambling"*

One of my favorite things to do in Japan is to check out the capsule toy machines.

You can find just about any capsule toy you want at Yodobashi Camera.  
For a paltry few hundred yen, you can get a nice keychain or similar toy. The one you get is, of course, random, but here's a tip: before you pump tons of cash into a capsule toy machine trying to get the chase figure that you want, there are numerous stores in Akihabara, Nakano, and Osaka's Den Den Town that buy, sell, and trade single capsule toy figures. It's a gamble that you'll be able to find the toy that you want in one of those stores -- older figures may not be in stock, or popular figures might be sold out, but it's a gamble that you'll get what you want out of the machine anyway. You might end up with tons of common figures, and not the chase figure that you want. But almost always, you're going to get the figure you actually want for a dramatically cheaper price than you'd get by randomly, and only barely higher than the selling price from the actual machines themselves.

For example, I ended up with piles of Akiba Blue, Akiba Yellow, and Machine Itasher keychains while attempting to get an Akiba Red keychain -- which I never got. I couldn't find them in any store in Osaka, either. Next time, I'll be looking in Akihabara.

My advice is to always check the loose toy stores first. If you don't find the one you want, decide if you want to gamble. When in Osaka, be sure to check "Torejaras" which is like "Traders" but not because Traders is already a copyrighted store name. You'll recognize them because they have a cute pirate cat on their sign, and they're in a building called Naniwa Dengyosha on "Ota Road". Yes, that is Ota as in Otaku. They also have stores in Osaka in Daito City, Matsubara, and waaaay up in Otsu, Kyoto, on the shores of Lake Biwa. Here's their official site! -- they have never steered me wrong, and their prices and selection are better than I've found in Akihabara.

If you do decide you want to gamble on toys straight from the machine, Yodobashi Camera stores almost always have almost every Gashapon machine currently out (not always), and they have change machines next to them now so you can easily convert your large currency into 100 yen coins. You'll need 100 yen coins for gashapon. Nothing else will do. If you find a capsule toy you really want and there's no change machine around, try buying a cheap drink from a drink machine. Water is usually 100 yen for a full bottle, and it's important to stay hydrated while walking around and toy hunting, especially if it's in the summer.

I was lucky enough to get this keychain out of a capsule toy machine in Osaka. If you're a fan of Kamen Rider Wizard, you'll especially enjoy this Flame Dragon style keychain.

My one minor complaint is that the metal on the mask is slightly incomplete. It's nothing I can't fix with my Warhammer 40k Boltgun Metal paint, however. But then again, these are cheap capsule toys mass produced in China; I can't expect complete perfection, and for 200 yen, I was quite happy with it. I was trying to get Flame Style, but while attempting to get it, I also got a Den-O Gun Form and Water Style Wizard.

What about you? Got any amazing or rare finds from Japanese capsule toy machines, or a recommendation for a store where you can get them?

* Gashapon is not Japanese for toy gambling, that was a joke. Gashapon is an onomatopoeia for the sound that the machine makes when you turn the handle, and the capsule drops into the slot.

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