Unusual concept is a hit, with a second line on the way.

A lot of Japan’s “capsule toys” are really more like decorations. Especially among gachapon goodies aimed at adults, you’ll find lots of cool and quirky non-posable figurines and miniature art pieces, the sort of thing to keep on the corner of your desk to brighten your day.

So on a recent outing, our ace reporter Mr. Sato wasn’t surprised that the capsule toy machines seen here aren’t selling something to actively play with. No, he was surprised because they’re selling photographs of complete strangers.

A total of 10 photos make up the lineup, and they’re not of actors, pro athletes, politicians, or any other sort of celebrity or famous figure. Nor are the people pictured striking dramatic poses or having their pictures taken in exotic locations. They’re all dressed in understated formal attire, looking straight ahead with a blue background, in keeping with the product line’s name: ID Photos of Complete Strangers.

The photos are just a few centimeters tall, the size you’d use for a driver’s license, or ID badge. According to Hiroki Terai, the designer who came up with the idea for the line, these are recreations of photos actually used by the person pictured on applications for passports, certification tests, job openings, or other forms.

300 yen (US$2.40) gets you one capsule, which in turn has one photo inside of it. Mr. Sato was tempted to try to collect them all, but 10 designs is a lot for a gacha line, and he only had enough change in his pocket for three. The plus side of having so many different designs, though, is that you’re less likely to end up with duplicates, and when Mr, Sato opened up his three capsules he was happy to find three different people (zero that he knew) staring back at him.

It was an unusual feeling, gazing into the eyes of three people he’d never met, and, in all likelihood, never will meet. Their earnest expressions make it so that you can’t help wondering what they were applying for when they took the photos. Grad school admission? Their dream job? An overseas working holiday visa? Mr. Sato will never know, but at the same time, it’s hard not to find yourself rooting for them.

▼ For extra authenticity, each photo is cut with less-than-precise lines, as though it was snipped with a pair of scissors just prior to being pasted onto the application form.

Now feeling reflective himself, Mr. Sato got out an old passport that he’d gotten half a lifetime ago and has hung onto, despite having to replace it with a newer one several years ago.

When he applied for this passport, his plan was to leave Japan and journey through the mountains of Nepal. As fate would have it, he became romantically involved with a young lady prior to departure and, not wanting to turn their relationship into a long-distance one, ended up not making the trip.

The relationship ended up running its course, but Mr. Sato’s been able to take many overseas trips since then, and he can’t complain about his love life either. Looking at the three strangers’ photos, you’re likely to find yourself hoping that, even if it didn’t happen right away, they too managed to eventually achieve whatever they had their sights set on when their pictures were taken.

Terai says the ID Photos of Complete Strangers have exceeded their sales projections, and that he’s currently looking for candidates for a second round. As weird as their concept may be, there’s definitely something compelling about how they can make you feel a sense of empathy and connection to someone you never knew existed until you popped open the capsule.

Reference: Abema Times
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