You probably know the little coin machines with small toys outside the supermarket that you used to beg your parents to let you get sometimes. They were low-cost and low-quality but delivered so much joy. Japan takes these capsule machines, called “gashapon,” very seriously and has a strong gashapon culture. With prices ranging from ¥200 (about $2USD) to over ¥1000 (about $10USD), they’re considerably more expensive than what we knew from our childhood - but they’re also a lot better!
While you can find gashapon of all kinds all over Japan—they show up everywhere!—the neighbourhood of Ikebukuro in Tokyo just opened something next-level. Called the Gashapon Department, this store now boasts the record of being the biggest capsule toy store in the world. With thousands of machines to pick from all in one convenient place, it's hard to not feel a child’s excitement when you walk in; and there’s something there for the whole family! We visited on the store’s opening day, February 27th, 2021, and are here to bring you all the details of Tokyo’s latest otaku hot spot.
Gashapon Department Info
|Location|| Address |
3F, 3-1-1 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima City, Tokyo 170-0013
Nearest train line(s)
|Cost of Admission||N/A|
|Hours of Operation|| Time and days|
10:00 - 22:00
|Official Website||https://bandainamco-am.co.jp/others/capsule-toy-store/ (Japanese only)|
Gashapon Department is a massive store full of capsule toy machines - literally thousands of them! While most of them are toys, don’t be fooled by the name “capsule toy;” some machines have pins and keychains, stationery supplies, small fashion accessories, USB drives, and more. They come in all manner of themes, too, including anime and games, Japanese culture, animals, children’s TV characters, Sanrio, trains... we could go on, but you get the idea. Basically, there’s likely to be something for everyone if you look hard enough!
If you’re a fan of anime - which we assume you are, since you’re here! - or other parts of Japanese pop culture, there is more than enough to satisfy you at Gashapon Department. A huge number of the machines are dedicated to anime and game goods, with small figures, key chains, and pins being the main merchandise available. All gashapon machines have an image of what designs and items are available inside, but which one you get is all down to luck - but that’s just part of the fun! You put in your coins, turn the huge wheel, and out pops a mystery capsule. You take a deep breath, cross your fingers, and open it to find your prize. And if it isn’t the one you wanted, well. You can always play again!
The great thing about this many gashapon in one place is the sheer variety you have to choose from. A lot of the anime ones are thankfully sorted by series, and you can find huge rows of machines dedicated to some of the biggest titles like Love Live!, Kimetsu no Yaiba, and Dragonball. It’s no surprise that there are a lot of Pokémon machines as well! Most otaku gashapon cost ¥300 each ($3USD) for a keychain, small figure, or pin. There are a few premium machines that cost ¥1000 ($10USD) or more, but they have bigger and more complex figures or other prizes inside.
Don’t let yourself just be limited by your otaku interests in a place like Gashapon Department, though; there are so many other interesting machines to check out! We really loved the ones based on traditional Japanese culture, like tea ceremony pieces, ceremonial masks, and Samurai helmets. These make awesome souvenirs for yourself and your friends. There are also quite a few weird machines, so don’t be afraid to try one out. You never know what you might get!
Luckily, Gashapon Department has quite a few tables and chairs for when you need to take a break from your gashapon adventure. These are also perfect places so sit down and open up all your capsules to check out your loot and trade with your friends. Don’t be afraid to sit down if you need to.
If you do not have much experience with gashapon, it's important to remember to recycle the capsules after you take out your prize! That way the plastic can get reused in the future rather than end up in a landfill somewhere. Gashapon Department makes the act of recycling the capsules a little more fun, with fun contraptions you can watch the empty balls roll through when you put them inside instead of just throwing them in a box. Unless you want to have a bunch of capsules in your house or suitcase, it's better to leave them in the designated recycling places before you leave the store!
You also don’t have to worry about not having enough coins for all the machines you want to play. Gashapon Department has a plethora of change machines (though the queues were still quite long when we visited), so you can change your notes into ¥100 coins. It's worth noting that gashapon machines never accept paper money. Gashapon Department also has a limited display of machines that you can pay for with electronic money, such as your train pass, but the selection of these machines is very limited so it's better to have cash.
If you’re worried about planning an entire outing just around going to play gashapon (which is totally fine, by the way!), luckily, the shopping complex that Gashapon Department is housed in has plenty of other otaku attractions. Sunshine City is home to the Pokemon Mega Centre Tokyo, the Pikachu Sweets Cafe, the Pokemon Go Lab, a Mugiwara Store (for One Piece fans), and a Disney Store (check out our coverage of some of these spots linked below!). It also has a quirky mini-theme park called NamjaTown. Plus Ikebukuro is known for being one of Tokyo’s otaku neighbourhoods, so just outside you can find plenty of anime shops, game centres, maid cafes, and plenty of other things that make it worth exploring.
Whether you’re looking for anime and game goods, cute animals, tiny models of real-life items, or eccentric conversation pieces, you can find them all in a capsule machine at Gashapon Department. You can easily spend upwards of an hour just wandering through the corridors of capsule machines and still not see all of them. The hardest part about visiting Gashapon Department is making the decision about which machine to play - or is it knowing when to stop when you aren’t getting the prize you want? You’ll have to visit yourself to find out!
The Guinness Book of World Records is going to be visiting Gashapon Department in March to check if its claims are true, and hopefully to officially crown it as having the most gashapon in the entire world!
What kind of gashapon would you like to play? Would you like to visit Gashapon Department to have the convenience of so many machines in one place, or do you like finding surprise gashapon on your travels better? How much money do you think you could drop at a place like this? Let us know in the comments!