Miniature models give us a big appetite for Japan’s favorite comfort food.

Despite their name, most of Japan’s capsule toys aren’t something you actively play with. Instead, the majority of gacha treasures are compact, quirky figures that fit nicely on a work or study desk and serve as a little visual reminder of a simple joy in life.

And with few things more comforting than a nice bowl of miso soup, it makes perfect sense that there’s now a line of miso soup capsule toys.

These aren’t just any bowls of miso soup, though. They’re a joint project between toy manufacturer So-Ta and celebrity chef Yukiko Seo, who’s recently applied her skills at creating tasty, healthy, and easy-to-make dishes to miso soup, with an entire cookbook on it called Misoshiru ha Okazu desu (“Miso Soup is a Proper Dish”).

The capsule toys are priced at 400 yen (US$3.80) each, and we quickly emptied out our coin purse when we came across a machine stocked with them.

Japan has a long history of enticingly crafted food models, and that tradition is alive and well here. Five different types of miso soup are available, and the first one we got, a bowl with pork, bean sprouts, and thin green onions, is a thing of tiny, uncannily realistic beauty.

That attention to detail continues with our second bowl, poached egg and onion. At first glance, that might look like fish sausage sticking out of the bowl, but it’s actually supposed to be a piece of bread, as Seo’s open-minded philosophy allows, and even recommends, this unexpected pairing.

And finally, our third bowl is cabbage, aburaage (fried tofu), and carrots.

Now, if you’ve got any love for miso soup, it’s impossible to look at these and not immediately have intense cravings triggered. So you’ll be happy to know that each toy also comes with the recipe for how to make the respective miso soup!

Like we said, Seo’s recipes are known for being both delicious and easy, so we decided to whip up a bowl of the cabbage aburaage carrot version.

The ingredient list is short and simple, consisting solely of staples you can find at any Japanese grocery store or overseas Asian food market:
● Cabbage: 200 grams (7.1 ounces)
● Carrot: 3-centimeter (1.2-inch) piece
● Aburaage 1/4 cut
● Miso paste: 3 tablespoons
● Dashi soup stock: 3 cups

Chop everything into bite-sized pieces, then toss them into a pot along with the dashi to simmer. Seo says you don’t need to worry about cooking them in order; they’ll get along just fine together.

Once the cabbage gets soft, it’s time to add in the miso paste. Stir the pot until the miso dissolves into the rest of the soup stock, and you’re ready to eat!

Our capsule toy (right) and the soup it taught us how to make (left). A pretty close match, we say!

Our real miso soup tasted as good as it looked, with the sweetness of the carrots mellowing out the flavor of the cabbage and forming a fortifying, soothing harmony with the broth and aburaage. It’s so good that we’re tempted to try our luck at getting the remaining two toys, tomato with shiso (Japanese basil) and chicken with long green onions and kabocha pumpkin.

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