Got some leftover change after a day of pop culture treasure-hunting? Then this JR station has a vending machine you’ll want to check out.

The platform for the Chuo Line local trains at JR Nakano Station (which stands between tracks 1 and 2) looks pretty much like any other rail platform in Tokyo. There’s a concrete floor, a couple of benches, and, of course, vending machines.

Feeling a little thirsty, we walked over to the bank of machines with some coins in our hand, ready to purchase some Pocari Sweat, canned coffee, or another of Japan’s tasty soft drinks. But as we got closer, we couldn’t help noticing that passersby kept looking at one machine in particular.

With September here, a lot of vending machines are transitioning into special seasonal drinks for the fall, and at first we thought this might have been why the machine was getting extra attention. It turns out, though, that this machine isn’t stocked with beverages at all. Instead, it’s full of toys, specifically the compact novelty figures that are usually sold out of capsule toy, or gacha gacha, machines.

Typical toy vending machines in Japan only offer items from a single series, but this towering collection of collectibles gave us several to choose from, including Underbite Planet animals (both Series 1 and 2), Statue of Too Much Liberty (in which the New York icon strikes new poses), and plastic bonsai trees even smaller than the actual miniature plants they’re based on. Being the cultured historians (and also just plain weirdos) we are, though, we felt ourselves drawn to the Historical Mailbox series…

…and so we tossed 300 yen (US$2.70) into the machine, pressed the corresponding button, and retrieved our prize from the slot at the bottom, just like we’d have done if we’d been buying a drink.

While you get to pick which series of figure you want, the exact model is still randomized, with the box offering no hints.

Once back at the office, we opened the box to find…

…a surprisingly cool-looking replica of a mail box from the fourth year of the Meiij period, which corresponds to 1871 by the western calendar.

▼ If one of Japan’s last samurai needed to send a letter, this was how he did it.

Even though vending machines can be found throughout Japanese train stations, one selling figures is extremely rare. So why does Nakano have one? Because while it can’t match the world-wide fame of Akihabara, Nakano has long been a beacon for the otaku community in Tokyo. Locals and visitors are just the sort of people who’d be happy to have one more place to pick up some cool or funny figures, further proving that the quirkier the neighborhood, the quirkier the vending machines.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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