They seem very sincere.

Our writer Masanuki Sunakoma has long believed that those capsule machines that charge 1,000 yen (US$7) but offer a shot at luxury prizes are really just full of junk. However, when stopping by a highway service center recently he found a rather elegant set of machines that made him rethink his prejudice.

And when he walked out of there with a cheap knock-off Gucci lion pendant, he became sure that those things were rip-offs. At least, that’s how he felt before driving along the Tohoku Expressway and pulling off at the Sano Fujioka exit. This off-ramp of destiny would lead him to Feodra P&D Sano, a shopping center with a plethora of high-stakes capsule machines.

In the maze of machines were multiple units charging 1,000, 2,000, or 3,000 yen ($7 – $21) for access to an even greater number of lockers containing a wide range of prizes. Again, Masanuki was certain that these kinds of machines rarely, if ever, paid off…but THESE ones felt different.

He couldn’t really explain it, but there was a whole other aura about these capsule machines. A typical 1,000-yen machine could be compared to a guy on the street playing three-card Monte, but these machines were more like your scientist neighbor who suddenly has to sell all their things dirt cheap before moving away to conduct emergency research on limestone formations in Montenegro for the UN. And much like with his imaginary geologist friend, Masanuki felt like he would be doing these machines a favor by taking some of this clutter off their hands.

The capsule machines here have a unique purchasing system too. For each machine, there’s a corresponding range of locker numbers, with each locker having a clear window or placard showing you what its prize is. Purchase a capsule, and if you’re lucky, you might get a key that unlocks one of those lockers, or you might get a smaller prize directly inside the capsule itself.

▼ For example, at this machine you might win a key to red lockers #291 to #335

So Masanuki looked at each available prize locker and judged which would be best in the almost certain event of him winning big. Since a lot of them had prizes like video games that he didn’t own a console for, Masanuki decided to play the 1,000-yen machine that had prizes including McDonald’s gift certificates, The Game of Life, and a Nintendo Switch.

Our reporter was comforted by the possible prize lineup. It always felt like the ones with Gucci bags were trying too hard. McDonald’s gift certificates, on the other hand, really seemed like something he had a chance at winning.

So with confidence, he inserted 1,000 yen into the machine.

He then pushed the big blue button. If successful, a capsule containing the key to one of the lockers would pop out.

Out came a black capsule, which was reassuring since the last time he got a dud, it was in a gold capsule.

Even better, it hit the bottom with a thud and felt a little weighty in Masanuki’s hand. Could this be a key?

It was not a key…

It was a key chain…

It was a gear shift key chain.

It was fully functional too, at least in the sense of the little stick being able to move around. There was no tiny transmission for it to link to.

Most people would probably be disappointed by receiving such a “prize” for 1,000 yen, but not Masanuki. As luck would have it, his car was being repaired and he had been driving around in a cute little compact in its place for a few days.

He would have to return the loaner the next day, so perhaps the car used some kind of mechanical magic to get the gear shift to him as its own way of saying, “Remember all the great times we had together? I want you to have this to remember me by…”

Masanuki: “Don’t worry little car. I will remember you. Thank you for the gift.”

That being said, most people probably won’t find themselves in the situation pictured above and might not appreciate such a key chain. So, be careful with your money, no matter how much of a “this time will be different” vibe you get from these machines.

Capsule Machine information
Fedora P&D Sano / フェドラP&D佐野
Address: Tochigi-ken, Sano-shi, Takahagicho 1340
Hours: 9 a.m. – Midnight
Open all year round

Photos ©SoraNews24
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