Rising Stars of Tokyo’s Retail: The Surge of Capsule Toy Specialty Stores

Joel Fukuzawa
3 min readDec 3, 2023

Introduction: The Capsule Toy Phenomenon

Tokyo has witnessed a rapid increase in capsule toy (gachapon) specialty stores, particularly in prime areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku. These stores, emerging in spaces vacated during the pandemic, represent a significant shift in retail trends. Once a sideshow in department stores and arcades, capsule toy machines are now taking center stage, with some stores expanding to encompass entire floors, evolving into full-fledged capsule toy department stores.

Capsule Toys: From Side Attraction to Main Event

‘#C―pla’ in Shibuya, for instance, spans two floors and boasts 1700 machines. Since its opening in February, it has attracted a diverse clientele, including school students and international tourists. Initially seen as entertainment for children, offering low-cost plastic toys or trinkets, capsule toys have recently garnered adult interest. This shift is attributed to nostalgia and the growing intricacy and variety of the toys, some becoming collectible art pieces.

Retail Evolution: Filling the Void

Companies like Toshin from Hokkaido have been instrumental in this retail transformation. Starting last summer, Toshin has opened stores in key locations such as SHIBUYA 109 and Harajuku’s Takeshita Street. Yasushi Sunada, Toshin’s business manager, aims to make Shibuya a hub for capsule toy information. Dream Capsule, based in Nagoya, also shares this rapid expansion, filling retail gaps left by pandemic closures.

Unique Appeal: Low Entry Barriers and Quick Set-Up

The success of Dream Capsule and Toshin in rapidly opening new stores in Tokyo stems from the unique low-entry barrier of capsule toy specialty stores. With low initial costs and about ten days required for setup, these stores have ushered in a competitive era for the industry, with companies striving to differentiate their stores.




Joel Fukuzawa

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