Gashapon [gosh-uh-pone] is a Bandai brand trademark widely used throughout the world for their capsule toys.

‘Gashapon’ is a Japanese onomatopoeia, made up of two sounds: ‘gasha’ for the turning of a crank on a toy vending machine, and ‘pon’ for the sound of the toy capsule dropping into the receptacle. It is used to describe both the machines themselves, and any toy obtained from them.

Gashapon machines are similar to the coin-operated toy vending machines seen outside of grocery stores and other retailers in other countries. While American coin-operated vending toys are usually cheap, low-quality products, sold for a quarter, 50¢, or sometimes 75¢, Japanese gashapon can cost anywhere from ¥100–500 ($1–6) and are normally a much higher quality product. They are often constructed from high-grade PVC plastic, and contain more molding detail and carefully painted features. Many gashapon are considered collector’s items, with rare ones fetching extremely high prices in secondhand market.

Gashapon toys are often based on popular character licenses from Japanese manga, video games, anime, popular icons and a few American entertainment licenses. These highly detailed toys have found a large following among all generations in Japan, and the trend is filtering to the world, especially among adult collectors, with other popular culture influences such as anime and manga. It is not at all uncommon to see sets based on licenses explicitly for adults, with figures of near-naked women.

Virtually all gashapon are released in sets—each series will have a number of figures to collect. They are, by nature, a ‘blind purchase’; people insert coins and hope to get the toy or figure they desire. Such an amusement element may become frustrating, as one risks obtaining the same capsule repeatedly. Enthusiastic collectors will buy sets from gashapon stores in places such as Tokyo’s Akihabara or Osaka’s Nipponbashi (Den-Den Town). Depending on the store, the sets are usually cheaper than buying them randomly out of a machine.


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