One man’s trap is another’s treasure.

Our star reporter Mr. Sato has always been a sucker for suspicious capsule machines. Actually, he’s a sucker for just about any kind of capsule machine…even ones with scale replicas of railroad crossings.

So it should come as no surprise that while in the Ameyoko shopping district of Tokyo he couldn’t resist taking a turn of its mysterious “Trap or Treasure” machine. For a cost of 500 yen (US$3.62), this capsule machine promises one of the two titular types of capsule contents but gives no indication of what either might be.

Below the machines were signs further driving the point home that those willing to take the plunge will either get “Heaven” or “Hell” and another sign issued a set of three rules to follow.

1) Stand in front of the machine and close your eyes
2) Bow twice, clap twice, bow once, and pray for success
3) Insert a 500-yen coin and turn the knob
Your feelings of gratitude and the strength of your prayer will determine your fate…

The act of bowing twice, clapping twice, and then bowing again is a rather common custom when praying at Shinto shrines. It’s something you’re likely to see any time you visit a shrine, but rarely in front of a vending machine.

Since the borders reopened Ameyoko has begun to bustle again with tourists. It still isn’t quite like it used to be, but there were enough people hanging around to make Mr. Sato feel a little embarrassed to pray to this capsule machine.

Still, the sign said that if he didn’t pray with enough sincerity, then he might get a trap instead of a treasure. The stakes were high, so he swallowed his pride and gave two deep bows, two loud claps, and one final bow full of faith while passersby glanced at him sideways.

He then put the coin in and turned the knob…

Out rolled a sizable black orb. Mr. Sato gave it a shake and there was a hard clanking inside as if something metallic was inside. Based on past capsule toy experience it seemed like a key chain, but this was no ordinary capsule machine. “Wait, wait,” he thought to himself, “It might be a jewel!”

Having convinced himself that he had just gotten a valuable gemstone, our reporter tucked the capsule into his bag and waited till he got back home before opening it.

Mr. Sato’s eyes were wide as he pried open the plastic ball and dreamed of the valuables destined to pour out of it when…

Reality popped out instead, in the form of a stuffed animal key chain.

It had a tag that read “Heartwarming School: Light Blue Class Polar Bear.”

Mr. Sato thought that was ludicrous. There was no way this thing was a polar bear and he even had reservations that it was a member of the Ursidae family. It could just as easily be a red panda, otter, or kinkajou.

As far as this being a trap or a treasure, it certainly seemed to lean towards the former but he also figured such judgment was really in the eye of the beholder. Had he been six years old this would certainly be a treasure, so perhaps this machine was only expecting six-year-olds to actually pray to it and simply underestimated the unique sway our ace reporter’s own inner child has over him.

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