I never knew I wanted a tiny sniper guy pointing at me sneakily from inside a candy wrapper. But when I saw it pop out of the gacha capsule, I swear Akihabara echoed with my laughter! See, I caught toy fever in Tokyo, thanks to Tokyo Survival Channel who challenged me to buy a 100 gachapon goodies in one day.
I repeat: 100 plastic balls filled with an addictive dose of surprise, a generous helping of humour, and a dash of weird and a pinch of WTF?!
It was awesome and exhausting and I’m now a gachapon junkie. After raiding hundreds of machines in Shinjuku and Akihabara, I can confidently tell you which gacha hub is the best. But first, let me tell you how it all went down and all you need to know about gacha.
What’s All the Fuss about Gachapon?
For those who don’t know, gachapon (or gacha for short) is a vending machine with “a twist.” When you turn the handle, it makes a “gacha gacha” sound, and the moment the ball drops, you could say it sounds like “pon.”
This vending machine/slot machine crossover leaves a lot to luck, since you don’t know which toy you’re getting. So, let’s say it’s a One Piece gacha machine — you don’t know if you’re going to get Luffy, Chopper, Sanji… and that’s part of the fun.
And Japan is the mecca of gacha. They’re cheap yet high quality, have amazing variety and a constant influx of new stuff, and they are EVERYWHERE.
Where to Find Gachapon in Tokyo?
I already told you — everywhere. We’re quite obsessed with gacha, so from gacha souvenirs sold in convenience stores, to even dirty 18+ NSFW gacha sold at select places, there’s anything for anyone. A good rule of thumb is checking for gacha machines around train stations, gaming arcades, big shopping centres and almost any Yodobashi Camera, BIC Camera, Don Quijote, etc.
Here’s a few starting points:
- Tokyo Station: There’s the aptly named Tokyo Gashapon street with hundreds of machines
- Nakano: Find gacha in Nakano Broadway shopping mall
- Shibuya: Check the selection in LABI or BIC Camera
- Ueno: Go to Yamashiroya store
- Harajuku: Go to Gacha no Mori (Gacha Forest)
- Ebisu: Go to Kitan Club
Outside of Tokyo, there’s gacha in every city and in the airports for last-minute luck before you fly away. But in Tokyo, two places are the ultimate gacha-heavens: Shinjuku and Akihabara.
100 gachapon in 1 day? Challenge accepted. Let’s go drown ourselves in whimsical toys!
Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems
As I was screaming “take my moneyyyy” to the rows of gacha machines, I realized they will only do so in a ¥100 coin form. That’s a lot of metal I didn’t have on me, but the big gacha centres in Shinjuku and Akihabara I went to have money changing machines that break ¥1,000 and ¥5,000 bills into coins. ¥10,000 bills are not accepted, so I had to ask the staff for ¥1,000 bills first. It turns out, people buy so many gacha, they didn’t bat an eyelid at my big spending!
Don’t Fight the System
Gacha machines often get stuck. It happens. Before you get in a fight with the machine, just find someone from the staff and they will unlock and reset it.
Don’t twist the handle in the wrong direction — follow the arrow!
Be Eco Friendly
Don’t want the clunky plastic ball? Look for the crate/box for discarded balls.
Splurging on gacha in Shinjuku’s Yodobashi Camera Gachapon-Kan
On the west side of Shinjuku Station, Yodobashi Camera sprawls out across several buildings and many of them have hundreds of gacha machines. A special gem is the Yodobashi Gachapon Kan that’s exclusively for gacha and nothing else. The unassuming entrance actually leads to a basement full of gacha and not many people.
The variety is staggering, and this store, compared to others, had more Marvel and Hollywood stuff, as well as a lot of different varieties of Pokemon and Dragonball gachapon. It also gave us gems like a whole takoyaki stand in gacha form, a slimy banana, a translucent fluorescent animal skeleton pendant, a worker coming out of a manhole, and a selection of very ordinary everyday garbage cans.
Why? Because gacha. I was also delighted by the kabuki cats, sitting cats, bread dogs, hamsters, nine-tailed mythical foxes, owls and what not — exclaiming, “Only in Japan!”
Fever-pitch Reached in Akihabara Gachapon Hall!
Akihabara deserves the nickname “Gacha-habara” for the sheer number of machines it has, since you can’t even leave the station without seeing possibly 100 machines! However, diving into the backstreets will bring you to a gachapon legend — the Akihabara Gachapon Kan that has more than 15 years unbroken history of being exclusively a gachapon store. This store has a very laid back atmosphere, despite being more crowded than other places.
It also has a bit more anime merch than the Yodobashi store, providing us with gacha of My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Haikyuu, Sailor Moon, Jojo, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Fate Stay Night, etc. I was ecstatic at finding a Madoka Magica gacha despite the anime concluding in 2011 and the gacha machines are usually stocking new and current stuff (so sadly, I still haven’t found anything from major past hits like Deathnote, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, etc).
Adding a rare personal touch, the owner is there to assist you, telling you what new gacha is coming soon and chat about anything gacha-related.
Gacha Tip: If you can’t seem to get that exact gacha you want, you can buy complete sets at Akihabara Gachapon Kan. Too late for a gacha? They might have it for sale in their display cabinets chock full of gacha history. But above all, there are around 500 gacha machines, so you are guaranteed to find something to make you squeal with joy!
And the Winning GACHA Shop Is…
Both Shinjuku and Akihabara had me spoiled for choice and it was hard deciding the winner at first. But, everyone knows Akihabara is a blinking colourful sensory attack of all things otaku, and gachapon is one of the many things Akihabara does best. Actually, I found 3 out of my top 5 gacha in Akihabara (see below).
But it’s not just the whole vibe of Akihabara as a place that makes Akihabara Gachapon Kan the winner here. It’s also the store’s history and the personal touch of the owner that really broke the tie.
Finally, the 100 Gachapon Haul You’ve Been Waiting For!
My Top 5 Gacha Picks
There are so many gacha that the 100 we bought could easily be called “Top 100” out of thousands! But let’s narrow it down to the truly uber-exciting ones that made me GASP. You already know one of my top 5 because I had to profess my love for it from the start:
The Secret Sniper
Because I love how random, unexpected, and ridiculous it is. This secret sniper truly encapsulates the spirit of most non-anime gacha by just being wacky and inexplicable. It just is.
The Train Announcement Board Hand Watch
This one made me realize how much of a true Tokyoite I have become. My heart suddenly wanted to get a specific train line from the gacha — my favourite train line. Who on earth has a favourite train line?!? It turns out I do, and I’ve heard almost all Tokyo people have one, too. I am not coming out as a train otaku yet, but I definitely learned something about myself.
One Piece Wa No Kuni Arc Figures
This one shows how current gacha machines are; these toys became available the same week that the new arc premiered on TV! After more than 900 episodes, we are following the pirate crew to mythical Japan and the kimono-clad Luffy I got from the gacha is lit!
One Piece Sexy Ladies
I know sexy cartoons are not everyone’s cup of tea, but can we at least agree that these are wonderfully sculpted? I definitely admire the quality, the perfectly planned joints where parts come together, the poses and the overall life-like appearance. This was the most expensive gacha I bought!
Sexy Lady Liberty a.k.a. “Too Much Liberty” (自由すぎる)
This is not in my top 5 because it’s sexy, but because it’s breathlessly funny! Gacha are in their nature really humorous and no joke is off limits! I especially loved the wordplay with the meaning of “liberty.”
What to Do after Overcoming Your Gacha Addiction?
If you don’t hoard your gachapon, they’re great gifts for friends or souvenirs from your travels with a fun story as an added bonus. As gacha are constantly changing, they’re a great collector’s item, so you can also check out auction sites and see if you can resell them to at least fund your next gacha adventure.
And if you want a piece of our gacha haul, lucky you… because we have a GIVEAWAY!
Tokyo Survival Channel 100 Gachapon Giveaway
How to enter:
- Share any Tokyo Survival Channel article on Facebook or Twitter with #TokyoChallenge🗼 Hashtag.
- 5 winners will be randomly selected and each winner will receive 20 random gachapon from our haul.
- The campaign starts on August 1 and ends on August 18 Sunday Midnight (JST).
- Winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 21 on all TSC official accounts.