All you love about Japan, in a capsule

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Gachapon Kaikan: the mecca of miniature toy capsules

Perhaps local students lining up outside a store filled with toy vending machines might not warrant a second glance. But when you meet a tourist who crossed an ocean to seek out this small shop, tucked away in an alley off Akihabara's main thoroughfare, you know this isn't your typical toy store.

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Welcome to the world of gachapon: plastic spherical cases about 10 cm in diameter, filled with mini figurines, trinkets, and more. These toy capsules get their name from the "gacha gacha" sound made from cranking the machine dials, followed by the "pon!" when the capsule drops.

While you can find these machines in supermarkets and stores scattered throughout Japan, Gachapon Kaikan is the mecca of these miniature toy capsules, boasting hundreds of these gachapon machines.

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But why would anyone travel half-way around the world to walk out with a handful of these tiny trinkets?

Painstaking attention to detail. A plethora of cute characters. And of course, a good dose of creative wackiness. After all, aren't these some of the things we just love about Japan?

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Sure, a cute cat smartphone stand or a miniature rice bowl with shrimp tempura might not be on the top of your omiyage shopping list, but without a trip here, you'd never even know such things existed!

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So for 100-500 yen, enjoy the suspense of picking up a toy that is as fun to purchase as it is to play with. When luggage space is tight (as well as your pocketbook), these brilliantly detailed toys make for a great little souvenir, and you don't even need to worry about wrapping them!

Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan 
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am - 8pm; Fri, Sat & days before holidays 11am - 10pm; Sun & holidays 11am - 7pm
Address: 3-15-5, Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
URL: http://www.akibagacha.com/ (Japanese)

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