When traveling abroad there are two kinds of things tourists always bring home with them; pictures and souvenirs. Whether you are buying for yourself, or for family and friends, some kind of memorabilia is tucked away in the suitcase as a reminder of the place you visited.
Tokyo has no shortage of things to buy. From shopping malls in Odaiba to small stands in the subway, there is nearly something to buy around every corner. It can almost be overwhelming because there is a strong impulse to buy every cute trinket or cultural souvenir you lay your eyes on. And if you are anything like me, you want to just buy it all.
Since I have traveled so far away from home and to a place that not many of my friends or family have been to, everyone wants a little something from here. I am more than happy to bring back gifts for them because it is so easy to find something for everyone here, but being a recent college graduate I’ve needed to be more strategic about spending here.
I’m glad to say I’ve found where you can buy something both inexpensive and unique for everyone on your gift list and they can be found all over Japan.
“Gacha” is the nickname locals have given these toy vending machines that can be found in malls, subways, and convenience stores. For between ¥100-400, roughly $1-4, you can buy a capsule toy, trinket, or charm from a variety of different themes. Anime figures, Kirby, Disney characters, dinosaurs, Avengers characters, squishies, toy food, Japanese cartoons character, and even hats for cats can be found in gachas. So there really is something for everyone in these machines. Also, the items are not always the same from place to place so its fun to walk by other vending machines in different cities and see the different items they have available.
Even though there are similar toy machines in the U.S., it is the characters and toys inside the capsules that are unique to Japan. Some are the traditional cute characters like Sumikko Gurashi and Sailor Moon and others are characters we all know and love but styled differently to fit the cute Japanese aesthetic.
The real fun in these machines is putting the coins in, turning the knob, and hoping you get the one specific toy you wanted because it makes you feel like a little kid again.
I’ve already bought two so far, a stubborn Shiba Inu charm and the polar bear of Sumikko Gurashi, that sit on my desk at work. I plan to get a cat hat for one of my friends many more things as I see them around Tokyo and the rest of Japan. As for everyone else who asked me for a gift from Japan, I’ll post pictures of the other ones I get and let them guess who is getting what.