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Japan’s Beloved Capsule Toy Vending Machines Are Going Cashless

But will it be just as fun?
Photo by Guillaume Flament on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0). 

You can get pretty much anything from Japan’s vending machines including used underwear, eggs, and even sake. One of the more popular kinds is gashapon (aka gachapon), which carries a variety of capsule toys in egg-like containers. These vending machines offer random prizes, dispensing everything from your favourite Pokemon figures to miniature furniture and coffee beans.

Found pretty much everywhere around the country, people (especially tourists) enjoy getting rid of the spare change in their pockets and being surprised by these trinkets. They make for good souvenirs too. But this experience is going to change soon, now that a cashless version by the Tech Gacha Institute has been developed, Sora News 24 reported.


"Gashapon" is an onomatopoeic term — "gasha" is the sound from the hand-cranking action on a toy vending machine, and "pon" is the sound when the toy capsule lands on the collection tray.

The Tech Gacha Institute previously released a line of Smile Gacha machines that have a built-in internal camera that grants the user one turn of the handle for a prize when it recognizes a smile.

The new cashless machines are called Pipitto Gacha or Pipit Gacha. Users can play by scanning a QR code on their smartphone for payment. Once the transaction is approved, they can turn the handle, just like the older machines, for the prize.

According to developers, this system combines the traditional thrill of gashapon with the convenience of not needing to have coins on hand to play. Vendors who own the machines will have the ability to use the QR codes for different store applications, set their own price for one play, and customise its appearance.

Businesses can also use the machines for rewards programs and special promos for online shoppers to redeem at machines in physical store locations. This new function could also assist in product campaigns, by collecting marketing data to help track peak hours and what types of customers use the machines.

Despite being popular for its innovative technology, Japan is still largely a cash-based society, with its people dubbed as “the world’s most dedicated cash-hoarders.” Japan is an ageing society and most households hold more than half of their assets in cash and deposits as a way to prevent wasteful spending.

This, even though neighbouring countries China and South Korea have moved towards a cashless future. In 2019, the Japanese government even launched an initiative to promote cashless payments with retailers, setting a policy that targets to reach 40 percent use of cashless payment by 2027.

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