Gacha Machines in Narita Airport

Apr. 11 Wed by Jennifer Things to See

Capsule toy ~ Gashapon

Japan has always been a place with a knack for the creative and fun. Gacha machines have been around for a long time and can be found in other parts of the world. Originating from the United States, Japan has taken these toy dispensers to the next level. 

What are gacha machines, you may ask? Gacha machines are the Japanese term for what other people outside the country might refer to as a "bubble-gum machine." The premise is the same in that you put in coins into a machine in exchange for something. However, instead of bubble-gum or your run-of-the-mill bouncy ball, the machines in Japan come with (in my opinion) cooler prizes. 

In Japan, the toys usually come in great variety and are often some sort of "collectible" character keychain or figurine. I've seen many manga character collectibles, Disney collectibles, as well as little random gadgets and knick-knacks. These toys are usually encapsulated in some plastic toy containers, so these machines are also referred to as capsule toy machines. Although the prices range depending upon location and the prize itself, usually they are about 100 to 200 YEN. For the nicer prizes or well-known character prizes, it can even go up to 500 YEN. In Japan, 100YEN and 500 YEN are coins, so these machines are a great way to lighten your purse load while getting a neat little souvenir out of it. Unlike American quarters, 100 YEN is just one solid coin so there isn't as many that you need.

In Narita, and more recently other airports, they have come up with a solution for those overloaded wallets and purses. Because coins in general can add up to a lot of weight, and since 500 YEN are in coins, people may find that they have a lot of change in their purses before the fly home. The airport is a perfect place to unload all of the coins that will soon not be of use in other countries, all while getting a cute souvenir. Some of the gacha machines have uniquely Japanese style prizes as well! 

The interesting about the gacha machines at the airports in Japan are the sheer amount of machines. Rows and stacks of gacha machines are lined one after the other, creating a little aisle of gachas. The way they are stacked almost looks like a locker room, except instead of stacks of lockers, they are stacks of toys. Especially with children, this might seem exciting, especially inside an airport where there's not much to do but wait.

No one knows exactly what prompted Narita Airport, and the other succession of airports, to put all of these gacha machines in, and people do not necessarily know if it is a permanent fixture within the airport. Narita Aiport was the first to come up with a whole section entirely devoted to these machines, whereas before you may have just found the odd machine in random places. Since gacha sales tends to be doing the best within airports,  it seems like a win-win situation for everyone involved, and may just be here to stay for good. More and more airports in Japan are incorporating it, so you may just stuble upon these machines at your local airport. Many of the toys showcase Japan's silly (and sometimes outrageous) sense of humor, with cute and funny little figurines that you can hang random places. There is so much variety with the toys, that it's unliekly that you'll be strapped for options. You just may find yourself with more than you expected, with a pocket full of random toys.