This little device could almost always be found in cafés in Japan throughout the latter part of the Showa Period (1926-1989).

Bandai’s new gachapon vending machine capsule toy for 400 yen (US$3.65) is sure to tug on the nostalgic heartstrings of those of a certain generation. Commonly found in Japanese cafés, casual eateries, and ramen restaurants during the latter part of the Showa Period, patrons could use this little device to entertain themselves at their tables while waiting for their order. This all begs the question–what exactly does the contraption do? 

At first glance, you immediately notice its round, globelike shape, roulette wheel at the top, and deep red color. Various texts and diagrams around its circumference are also stylized in white, yellow, and light blue.

A closer inspection reveals that the illustrations are none other than the Western astrological zodiac signs. That should be a big hint for its true purpose.

Note that a thin slot is located above each zodiac sign. If you’re suddenly compelled by an urge to insert a small coin into the slot above your own sign, we’d recommend that you also then pull down the tiny levers…

…which will cause the roulette to spin…

…and out will pop a little o-mikuji (rolled-up fortune paper strip)–just like the ones you can usually find at shrines and temples throughout Japan!

The paper fortune includes not only a statement about your future luck but lucky numbers as well, based partly on wherever the ball on the roulette had stopped.

That’s right, this little device is a miniature roulette-style fortune teller. The regular-sized version that this toy version is based on experienced a wave of popularity during the fortune-telling boom of the 1960s. The miniature version is only about half the size of the regular one but is a faithful replica down to the tiniest of details.

Image: PR Times

Today there’s only one company that produces the regular-sized ones in all of Japan–the Kitatama Factory in Iwate Prefecture. One roulette-style fortune teller costs 8,800 yen.

Despite its reduced scale, the miniature version is still larger than a typical capsule toy and doesn’t even fit perfectly within its capsule bubble.

It does, however, fit very comfortably in the palm of your hand.

By the way, the capsule toy version comes with three rolled-up fortune paper strips (the regular-sized ones can fit 59). There are nine possible fortunes you can score, and the three that are enclosed in your capsule are randomly selected. It also comes with a few tiny coin-like chips to use instead of money.

You have to place the fortune paper strips inside the gadget yourself, so what you get isn’t exactly cosmically divined…but we’ll just turn a blind eye to that little fact.

Lastly, unlike the regular-sized version, the capsule toy version comes in three colors: basic red and navy blue, along with a third mystery color exclusive to Bandai.

Image: PR Times

Miniature roulette-style fortune teller gachapon capsule toys went on sale in late May. Look for them at gachapon vending machines near you if you’d like to experience a bit of Showa nostalgia. If you’re feeling firmly in a Reiwa Period (2019-present) mood, however, try looking instead for some of the weirder capsule toys out there.

Reference: Bandai, Kitatama Factory
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