In Japan, capsule vending machines – called gachapon in Japanese – are no longer offering only little toys. From small hamburgers to swimmers figurines, the gachapon have gone well beyond imagination. And now people can even buy their next trip inside a tiny plastic ball.
Last month, Peach Aviation, a Japanese airline mostly focused on domestic routes, installed its own vending machine in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Peach Aviation gachapon is filled with round-trip mileage points to domestic destinations out of Tokyo’s Narita Airport, including cities in Okinawa and the northern prefecture of Hokkaido. The process is entirely random as customers don’t know the destination until they open the little plastic container. The cost for each small plastic capsule is 5,000 Japanese yen ($44), but customers receive 6,000 Japanese yen ($53) worth of mileage points. Inside the capsule there is a sheet of paper with a code printed on it. Customers can use the code to exchange the mileage points for airfare and book their trip online. They can use those points only toward the destination they won.
The capsule also comes with a small pin badge and a “mission” that the travelers have to complete when they reach their destination. Missions vary and are related to the destination. For example, one customer had to assemble his own katte don, a popular seafood rice bowl dish bought at Kushiro’s Washo Market. Shuntaro Kosasa, the director of the project, explains that all the missions are created by himself and his staff.
According to Kosasa, the company’s goal was to sell at least one capsule a day, but since the opening of the first vending machine in Osaka last August, Peach Aviation has sold more than 3,000 of them. Although Peach Aviation doesn’t profit much from selling the capsules, the installation of the vending machines has generated much attention on social media.