What are Gashapon, exactly? Strictly speaking, they are capsule toys, meaning little toys housed in small plastic balls that are dispensed by vending machines. The brainchild of Bandai, Gashapon emerged in Japan in the late seventies and started to spread like wildfire throughout the country. The name, like many other nicknames in Japan, are based on onomatopeiac interpretations. The gasha gasha relates to the sound the vending machine handle makes when you turn it, and the pon is the sound the capsule makes when it hits the bottom of the machine as it's dispensed.
But beyond that technical and historical background, Gashapon are so much more. Imagine if someone took your favorite things and miniaturized them into little collectibles. Those things could be almost anything, from animals to art to anime to movies to science to history. Gashapon does not discriminate; rather, it celebrates variety, which is one reason why they make such great souvenirs.
Here are just a few examples of the Gashapon variety, including...
And even Japanese History and Puzzles:
All it takes is 3 Easy Steps...
Gashapon location and pricing:
These do make great little souvenirs for your office desk or for friends and family if they're into any of the different representations of Gashapon available. If nothing else, it makes for an easy to carry keepsake, so I say zehi, give it a try when you come across one of these machines (and you will!) during your journeys in Japan.