Being exasperated when playing a game or doing something that needs luck is a usual thing. But when buying something from a vending machine, we know what’s coming and that we’re getting it for sure. Unless the machine gets stuck at which point there’s the fight or flight reaction – some people kick the machine, while some give up. Gacha machines in Japan are a mix of all of that, in a good way.
Gacha is a shortened version of the word gachapon referring to a type of vending machine that will give you capsules with toys when you insert a coin. Usually the machine has pictures of the 4-5 toys it has, but there’s no way of knowing which one you’ll get. Gachapon itself comes from onomatopoeic words – “Gacha” is the Japanese word for that cranking sound inside the vending machine when you turn the handle, and “pon” refers to the sound when the capsule pops out. You are hearing it, right?
There are various systems of gacha, with different prices, but usually between a 100 and 500 yen. Most often gacha machines cost 200 yen per toy. To use this vending machine is easy, you just insert the coin or coins, then press the button located under the coin slot and spin. You need to have the exact change, but don’t worry if you don’t. Most gacha places have automated machines that change bills into coins. And in the rare case that the capsule gets stuck, there’s always someone on the premises who can open up the whole gachapon and sort it out.
Gacha capsules have different colors depend on how rare they are, but some gachas have random colours, so the player doesn’t know how rare they actually are. The ratio also depends on each machine, for example a certain gacha vending machine has 19 (normal) : 1 (rare) item in it. More often than not these are exclusive gacha toys, so you cannot buy them elsewhere, ensuring that you have to try out your luck. Eventually, some toys will start being offered for sale online by people who got the toy and are reselling it.
Gacha machines are mostly known for having anime figurines, and to make things more exciting there are always new collections of exclusive gacha anime toys from popular ongoing anime like One Piece, Gundam, Pokemon, Dragon Ball and so on. A sure way to find the most and the coolest anime gacha is by going to Akihabara. There are gachapon machines almost on every corner in Akihabara, and there’s also whole establishments dedicated to gacha only like the legendary Akihabara Gachapon Hall. There are more than 430 Gachapon units with various rewards inside.
Another set of gacha machines are dedicated to all things cute – plushy animals, mini versions of daily objects or buildings, mini sweets and foods and so on. Very often these are made to be practical, so they are key chains, phone charms, pins and badges, and so on.
A rare and interesting gacha type is the sexy 18+ type that can sometimes be noticed in nightlife districts like Kabukicho. They are usually in black capsules, cost a bit more and contain things like lingerie. Gacha’s possibilities are endless!
Gachapon has been inspiring people to adapt it into video games. One of the games that use this concept is Valkyrie Crusade. Players use a ticket that can be purchased with real money or get it in a game event while playing gachapon.
Also, some restaurants like conveyor belt sushi places have a real or virtual gacha game that customers can play to get small prizes while dining in or while paying the bill.
You can even buy your own gacha machine and capsules and get creative with it! You can make game for your friends, distribute small presents like that, or messages. Again, with gacha, there are so many possibilities.
Out of Akihabara you can also find a lot of gacha machines in Shinjuku, here is a detailed guide.
But you can find these toy machines everywhere, especially train stations, game centers, big shopping malls etc.
And there is no limit to how many you can buy and collect, even a 100 in a day has been a tried and tested experiment!
The most important thing is to try your luck and enjoy the surprise!
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Featured photo by Sebastian Kurpiel on Unsplash