Capsule Adventures in Japan

Strange things are kind of par for the course in Japan. Just take a look at this website completely devoted to showcasing all the weird things that arise from Japanese pop culture. Toys are no exception to the rule, and in a country where toys are only loosely meant for children, some of the things you can buy here are downright bizarre.

The mall near our house recently opened an entire capsule arcade, and in a spurt of forgetting the value of my pocket change, I decided to take a tour and splurge a little. If you’re not familiar with them, capsule machines are those little hand crank, gumball like devices that take your dollars and give you a cheap plastic toy in a plastic bubble in return. They are crazy popular here and can be found in any place where kids are sure to gather. This photo gallery is by no means exhaustive. I’ll probably have to do a follow up some time in the future, but for now, here is a taste of all the strange things you can get from a little plastic ball. Warning: This one is image heavy.

Characters

Obviously in the birth place of anime and manga, character prizes are going to top the list for most popular capsule toy. They certainly are the most common. Anpan Man, which is a show about talking, anthropomorphic red bean donut has a crazy number of capsule machines in the arcade, which leads me to believe that this place is supposed to be for five year-olds. At least until you see the iPhone thong, but we’ll get to that later. Sailor Moon swag is also pretty common, since this is the year of the 20th anniversary and the release of *gag* Sailor Moon Crystal. Many of the rest of these I have no idea what they are. If you know, be sure to tell me in the comments.

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Animals

This one is pretty easy to understand. Who doesn’t like adorable little plastic animals adorning every flat surface of their homes? Some of them though, I have to wonder why they have their own toy. Sea cucumbers?!

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Food

The obsession with tiny things carries right on to food items. Things like tiny curry and rice, tiny ramen and tiny sushi can be found all over the place in capsule machines. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of storage space before I could document them all.

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Animals That Are Food

No, not animals that we eat, but literally cute animals dressed as food. I don’t know, you tell me.

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Random Toys & Accessories

Sometimes you don’t want a toy to be a thing. Sometimes you just want a toy to be a toy. Capsule has you covered.

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Random Objects

And other times you want your toys to be miniature representations of things you see in your every day life.

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???, XXX & WTF, I don’t even

Honestly, I don’t know. Some of the things you can buy in Japan defy explanation. Why does an iPhone need a futon? Probably for the same reason it needs a thong. How did the character advising people to stop stealing movies at the cinema get so popular that he has his own action figure? I honestly couldn’t say. The only comment I’ll leave here is that these were all located in the same store. You can buy toy cigarettes right next to Anpan Man in Japan. I don’t know if that’s innocent or depraved.

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18 thoughts on “Capsule Adventures in Japan

  1. I can’t believe how much your post reminded me of my time in Korea. So similar… these obsessions with small toys and trinkets for who knows what… a futon and thong for a phone… we live in a strange but interesting world I guess. Thanks for sharing, It was definitely different. Cheryl

      • I’m so upset I couldn’t get a picture of it. I ran out of space on my camera before I got even half way through taking pictures of this place. Most of the pictures didn’t even make it into the post, but I wanted to have one of each of them, just in case there was something really interesting in there.

  2. I loved those things! There was a place near Shinjuku that was devoted to nothing but capsule toys. Of course, they’d all been individually repackaged so you could just buy whatever it was you wanted.

      • It cost a bit more (sometimes a lot), but I gather that they also had a lot of older and no longer available toys. I got a few King of Fighters figurines from there when I was in Tokyo.

      • Aww, that would be awesome! This arcade doesn’t have any attendants, so that would be impossible, but I wish there were! I would love to get my hands on the rest of the Mario sound buttons. They sold out fast. 😛

  3. My brother occasionally sends stuff from Japan and it’s always…interesting. Apparently he’s been holding out on the weirdness, though. No wonder your camera ran out of space :P. And you don’t like Sailor Moon Crystal??

    • I like sending over the interesting things to my family too. Usually food. My family is convinced I’m trying to poison them.

      No, I don’t like Crystal. You can put me squarely in the camp of, “You had years to work on this, how could you botch the animation so badly?!” The original series isn’t perfect, but at least the characters actually look like middle schoolers.

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