Capsule Machine In Japan Dispenses Faces of Strangers

An unusual capsule machine in Shinjuku, Tokyo has been getting a lot of attention on social media for dispensing ID photos of total strangers for 300 yen ($2.30).

Gachapon capsule toys are really popular in Japan, so popular that you can find them virtually everywhere, dispensing all kinds of collectibles, from small action figures and dolls to souvenirs. The concept has become so popular that it has been incorporated in the majority of mobile phone games, where users have to pay real money for the chance of receiving a missing character or skin. Capsule machines have been around in Japan for decades, but back in March, one particular such machine in Tokyo went viral on social media for dispensing something very unusual – ID photos of total strangers.


It’s hard to explain why someone would pay at least 300 yen ($2.30) for the ID photo of a random person, but according to Japanese news site, thousands of people have done just that over the past couple of months. Some of these people bragged about their weird find on social media, which caused the machine in the Kagurazaka district of Shinjuku to go viral.

“It’s so interesting. I wonder who it is,” one buyer said. “I bought it for something to talk about, but now I don’t know what to do with it. I’ll enjoy showing it to the people at work. I might put it on display there.”


“I thought it would be fun to stick an ojisan [middle-aged man] photo onto my smartphone, so I came to buy one,” a visitor says, adding, “As long as it’s an ojisan, anyone will do.”

Installed in March, the unique gachapon machine became so popular that people started coming to Kagurazaka from as far as Osaka just to get one of the 10 possible ID photos. Some even made it their mission to complete their collection.


So what’s the deal with this weird capsule machine and its random ID photos? Well, apparently it is the brainchild of a Tokyo entrepreneur by the name of Terai Hiroki, who explained that he came up with the idea after thinking that, in a time when everyone is wearing face masks, it would be nice to look at a random face.

“Everyone wears masks in the pandemic as a matter of course, so there’s no chance to see other people’s faces,” Terai said. “ID photos seem to be as close as you can get to seeing their real faces. You can wonder about what job looking they’re for, what kind of people they are, and what their names are. It’s fun to imagine all kinds of things.”

Terai said that, in order to preserve the authenticity of the project, the 10 photos dispensed by his machine are genuine passport and job resume photos. He asked 10 random people to allow him to sell their photos in a gachapon machine and even accompanied some of them to have their pictures taken.

The young businessman admitted that he was certain his unusual capsule machine idea would sell very poorly, but at the end of April he launched a second round, with even more ID photos of random people. I guess you really can monetize everything, you just have to come up with the right presentation.

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