Gachapon grows up

January 12th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

Customized machine sells knitted broaches

A customized machine selling knitted broaches in Koenji

While adults have been collecting gachapon for some time now, the contents of these brightly colored plastic capsules have remained the preserve of the kidult: figures molded into the likeness of characters from anime, or novelty toys like the hugely popular curly piles of plastic poop. But some stores are now taking gachapon machines and customizing them to contain tiny objects that would appeal to a rather more mature audience.

Just such a machine, located outside a store deep in the heart of Tokyo’s book-selling area of Jinbocho, is selling miniature books of poetry, photography or illustrations printed on traditional Japanese paper. The books sold at the store have proved so popular that people are now queuing up to buy them. Of course, as with all gachapon machines, whether they get the tiny tome they were after is down to luck; those disappointed aren’t allowed another go but have to ask around if anyone else is willing to swap. It’s not just literature that’s proving popular, the gachapon machine pictured at the right was spotted in Koenji and contains knitted broaches that might appeal to the arty student population of the area.

Yujin Co are known for their creative toys

Yujin Co. are known for their creative toys

Takara Tomy, a leading producer of gachapon, is keen to show that gachapon is a form of art, albeit of the pop variety. Their Time Capsule range is dubbed “art capsule toy product” and designed by a subsidiary of creative boffins at Yujin Co. They were the brains behind the smiley plastic poop that has become ubiquitous in many a gachapon collection, as well as the YMCK key chains that depict the 8-bit pop band in pixelated plastic form. Cashing in on the vinyl toy boom they have collaborated with vinyl toy-maker Devilrobots to produce a collectable evirob range and with TOUMA to make the Knuckle Bear range. Most recently in December they teamed up with apparel maker Edition to produce two specially designed “Korejiya-nai!” (It’s Not This!) robots.

Taking advantage of the collectible nature of these miniature toys, the future for Tomy’s Time Capsule toys looks to be in lucrative collaborations with trendy labels. But I’m hoping to see more boutique stores appropriate gachapon for themselves. Have you seen any unique gachapon machines? Let us know.

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