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Where else but Japan could you buy a miniature version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” figure crouching over a squat toilet, horror-struck? It’s one of thousands of ingeniously designed trinkets you can buy for a pittance from toy machines across the nation. They’re subversive, beautifully crafted and often hilarious. They are gachapon.

“Gachapon” refers both to vending machines and the capsule toys they spit out. When you crack open one of these plastic eggs, you’ll never know what you’ll get even though it’s part of a defined set of toys. That’s only a fraction of the fun of gachapon, a roughly ¥30 billion industry with 150 new toys hatched every month. While capsule toys originated overseas, gachapon are uniquely Japanese.

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