Change your pocketfull of change into a fistfuls of cool souvenirs from your trip to Japan.
Japanese coins are pretty cool, what with their hidden messages and other unexpected properties. As a matter of fact, I hung onto a a five-yen coin from my very first trip to Japan for several years, and I imagine manｙ other travelers bring home a piece of the country’s metallic currency for sentimental reasons.
However, no matter how big a Japanophile you are, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll arrive at the airport with more yen coinage in your pocket than you want. With the smallest paper money denomination in Japan being the 1,000-yen (US$8.55), all the change you’ve gradually acquired during your travels could be worth quite a bit, but unfortunately currency exchange counters won’t generally take coins.
But if you can’t convert your yen coins into your home country’s currency, at least you can convert them into cool souvenirs, thanks to this awesome setup at Narita Airport, the major air hub for foreign travelers flying into and out of the Tokyo area.
成田空港T2 B1F 外国人の小銭を使い切らせるべく、大量のガチャが出現 https://t.co/HcMN7aiY17—
μ'metro線上のシントーサ (@mumetro) October 29, 2016
At Narita Airport, Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy Arts has set up massive banks of capsule toy vending machines, alternatively called “gachapon,” “gacha gacha,” or just “gacha.” The area contains 171 machines, marked by sings announcing “Japanese Capsule Toy Gacha,” and can be found on basement level 1 of Narita’s Terminal 2 building.
成田空港のガチャコーナー。「あまった小銭をオモチャに！」、「なぜか日本で売れてます（Why Japanese people like this!）」と、いい味出してるコメント。 https://t.co/6LPOFH9JFL—
隅野貴裕:Takahiro Sumino (@t_sumino) December 10, 2016
The quadrinlingual signs, with explanations in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean, invite outbound passengers to use their leftover yen coins to enjoy one last quintessentially Japanese experience. Takara Tomy Arts says it stocks the machines with items it thinks will be popular with foreign travelers, and has included instructions on the signs of how to make purchases, for the benefit of gacha-newbies.
以前ツイッターで知った成田空港のガチャ売り場。 外国人向けの小銭の消費という目的っぽいですが、日本人でも充分楽しめます。ご丁寧に両替機もあるしw 地元になかったコンテナダンボーもあった。 https://t.co/KrK0gmHC4P—
はせがわまさき (@HASEGAWAmasaki) December 10, 2016
Prices for capsule toys vary by item, but the most common point is 300 yen, so with 171 machines, you should have no trouble using up all your leftover coins. After all, it’s either that or stack them into elaborate towers when you get home.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wishes they’d bring back the Valis gachapon machines.