In the states you drop in your quarter (or two or three or four), turn the crank, and are delivered a totally worthless piece of shit: a sticker, a flimsy plastic football helmet with a sticker you must apply yourself, a capsule full of slimy goop that will stain the walls of all your friends’ houses.
In Japan, they’re called Gashapon, because of the noise the machines make when you turn the crank and the bubble drops into the receptacle for you. Gasha… PON! Here, you pay a little more, dropped into a coin slot like a gambling machine. For the junky stuff, it’s only a buck (￥100). This includes things like cute little dogs, non-licensed keychains and cellphone straps, and other stupid figurines. For the better stuff, it’s 200–this will get you cool licensed stuff like small-ish Shinkenger keitai charms, little noise-making devices, one of a variety of ridiculously detailed Wii sets, one of eight Mario Kart power-up toys (I got the golden King Mushroom from a machine outside Toho last night).
Drop 300 and now we are talking: my favorite Evangelion ones come from 300-yen machines and are extravagant: a cellophane roll of painted and shaped body parts that come in large baseball-sized twist-open capsules, fitted with pegs so you can assemble your little treasure yourself. I am woefully pathetically unable to resist their calls, and the suspense of wondering which of the (usually six) possible objects of the set that you will get is simply too much. I’ve gotten a Ritsuko, a Rei, and an Asuka from those (Eva machines are kind of rare, surprisingly).
There are Mos Burgers, a set of Wii stuff next to a Sukiya near Sannomiya station, a whole array of goodies (including one of my known Eva machines) out the back entrance of Tsutaya/Yamada Denki on Center-gai, and something like ten Eva machines in the theater where we saw the movie (sadly out ten minutes from Motomachi station and too far to casually dump money into). There’s a set of machines near this big 100-yen shop that has Ultramans and monsters, Konami characters from Rumble Roses, and dozens of anime characters.
100-yen coins, I hardly knew ye. Let us hasten our search for a shelf that can contain the manifestation of my adolescent desire for tiny, cheap Japanese figures, and fervently pray (in inevitable vain?) that this distraction does not cross over into the realm of multi-thousand-yen PVC figures in various states of undress.