Don't lie or your nose will grow indefinitely... A Pinocchio lookalike capsule toy machine found on a street in Denmark.

Capsule Toy Machines Around The World

A while back, we brought you the magnificent capsule toys made by Yujin. Katsuhiko Ono was one of the toy designers we had a chat with, and it turned out that he has an ardent passion — scouting and photographing capsule toy machines all around the world! Toy capsule machines are a global phenomenon that have been putting smiles on people’s faces for quite some time. Today PingMag talks to Katsuhiko who shows us his best capsule toy machines and candy dispensers!

Written by Ryoko
Translated by Kevin Mcgue

When did you start taking pictures of toy machines?

I think it was around 15 years ago when I was working on a capsule toy machine project called ‘Slim Boy.’ At that time, the machines were quite large and two or more would often be placed next to each other. However, we were developing a more compact machine that had two different compartments holding two kinds of toys. It also had a single drawer at the bottom to collect the change, so the maintenance workers could collect the money more easily. While doing research for that project, I found myself photographing all sorts of toy machines.

Yujin’s ‘Slim Boy’ toy machines lined out at Tokyo’s Kiddyland. A must visit!

And what did you find out during your research?

Back then, there were lots of toy machines outside fruit stands, soba noodle places, and sushi restaurants, which are not places usually associated with toys. I found that quite mysterious. Also, the machines were harder to

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locate then. I always kept searching and when I found one, I was very excited! (Laughs) Now you see them everywhere. In front of supermarkets and game centres and so on… so there is nothing special about finding one.

By today, capsule toy machines are all over town, and surely also in front of a shop selling folk art…
… and of course in front of an okonomiyake shop.

American A&A Global Industries which produces toy machines.

Then, what was the first country you visited to take picture of toy machines?

First I went to America. There is a company known around the world for their machines called A&A Global Industries, and I went there for a visit. Their lobby was really a sight to see for me, as they had all sorts of machines selling Pez and gumballs lined up!

Inside the A&A Global Industries headquarters: Looks like a fun work place!

I went to a flea market at the Rose Bowl in California and found some collectors selling very rare machines. Without thinking, I wound up buying one. (Laughs)

Rare candy machines on sale at a flea market at Rose Bowl, California.

Were these invented in America?

It is said that the very first ones were gum ball machines that were set up in the New York subway in 1880. But companies in Europe, especially in England and Germany really revolutionised automatic vending machines.

Gumball machines are the predecessors of modern capsule toy machines.

How about interesting machines in any other country?

In Europe, there were many fresh and unique designs that you’d never see in Japan. In Denmark, I found a lot of colourful machines, and models shaped like Pinocchio or a slice of pizza, for example. And it was wonderful that that they were standing in cobblestone streets. In Portugal, I found machines with beautiful colours, and in simple round or rectangular shapes.

Ha! Pinocchio and pizza shaped machines from Denmark.
A machine outside a shop… and a gigantic machine on a café counter. Looks like the counter might collapse at any minute…
Colourful machines in simple geometrical shapes from Portugal. Neat!

Which machines do you remember the most?

In Sicily, I found machines shaped like ice cream cones with a face on front. Even simple box-shaped machines are in fun colour combinations, and look like they are made from aluminum. That must be fun for kids!

A machine shaped like a bug, and a soccer player machine filled with toy soccer balls. So cute how he proudly holds his arms!
In front of an ice cream store in Sicily, Ono spotted machines shaped like ice cream cones, of course.
Ono found one of his company’s ‘Slim Boy’ machines in the square in front of the hotel where he was staying in Europe.

What’s the difference between Japanese toy capsule machines and the ones you found overseas?

For the safety of children, the Japanese toy capsules always have warning information detailing what is inside. Other countries without these labels do have more freedom for design.

Japanese machines with detailed information written near the dials… and a machine that is all design.

Finally, what did you discover by researching so many toy and candy machines?

Whenever I find machines outside of Japan, I really understand that that these machines are loved by people around the world. Also, the analogue toys that are inside can be enjoyed by everyone from children up to grannies, so I think the toys are very important.

Thanks Mr. Ono for sharing your lovely pictures with us! And, please, continue making machines and toys that make kids happy!

Yujin is currently having a special campaign on their site about what can be made from empty capsules to encourage kids to enjoy analogue toys more. Drop by, please!

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  • Joseph


  • Pinky St

    I’ve never thought about the gashapon machines before – I know people collect pinball machines, perhaps capsule toy machines are the next trend!

  • Pingback: Kevin Mcgue - Tokyo-Based Journalist & Filmmaker » Capsule Toy Machines Around The World


    Really awesome collection of photos. I run almost a 3000 machine fleet of vending machines, but we don’t see anything like some of these!!!

    Great job and a real inspiration to a person who thinks bulk vending 24/7.

  • Pingback: Kevin Mcgue | “Capsule Toy Machines Around The World” Translation

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