Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

UFO Catcher Winnings, Part 1

On Saturday, my friend and I were out shopping in Sannomiya. We didn’t really find anything, and it was kind of discouraging, so I suggested we go to the game center and see if there were any prizes we could win from the UFO catcher.

We went to Namco Land, which was the biggest game center I knew of in the area. Most of the UFO Catchers here had one type of setup, like in this video (which isn’t mine, just one I found through a search):

Of course, this was just the final push for the guy to get the item; the plastic D-shaped ring actually starts perfectly centered on the rubber ball and takes more than one try.

At first I thought that these machines were just pointless to try, because I knew that ball was rubberized, meaning that the plastic ring is practically “sticking” to it. That means that the claw is not just going to make the ring slide off, but only move slightly.

My friend saw one particular machine with a large baby seal plushie in it. She said it was really cute, and when I looked at the ring on the machine, I could tell that someone had tried it at least once. So I said, “Well, why don’t we give it a try?”

200 yen was for one try, while 500 yen was for three tries. Knowing that the one try would just be a waste, we dug up some 100 yen coins and popped in 5 of them. She tried the first time, and not being very successful, she let me take over. I could see that the ring was moving ever so slightly, and the more I tried, the more I believed I could eventually get that seal. After we both ran out of coins (totaling about 1500 yen I think), we took turns guarding the machine while one of us went to get change for our 1000 yen bills.

Finally, after about 2500 yen and a final pull, the ring fell off and the baby seal plush dropped down into the prize window. We were both so excited (me much more than she) and then we realized that there were two unused tries on the machine.

What I learned was that, when you have extra tries left on a machine, you must tell one of the staff and they will let you transfer credits to another machine (or they’ll put another prize in the machine you just used). I took a look around the game center and found a large Doraemon plushie that I didn’t particularly want but looked easy to get. I got that one in much fewer tries. Afterwards we took purikura (the Japanese photo sticker booth) to commemorate our winnings:

So what I thought was a difficult game to win was actually quite simple. It’s a lot easier than the traditional type where you have to use the claw to push the item itself, because those you can actually screw up. With these machines, the only way you can really mess up is by missing the ring completely, which is what I ended up doing a few times.

Part 2 of my UFO Catcher story takes place in Osaka, where I did some solo shopping and came home with three big bags of stuff!


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