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The UFO Kaitou
last modified: Friday, November 06, 2009 (1:17:05 AM)
I'm sitting in the gate at Narita International, ready to board my flight back home.

I decided to head back to Japan this year after visiting last year. I really enjoy the fall colors, and this year did not disappoint.

I always love to have authentic experiences when traveling abroad - the kind that you're not really expecting to happen, especially if you don't speak the language and there's no way you can blend in with the population. Last year, it was being pushed into the overcrowded train in Tokyo during the commute period. This year, it was being kicked out of the UFO game store.

Yes, I was kicked out. And not because I was a misbehaving bunny.

Most of the Pachinko and UFO/Game stores around here are owned by the Yakuza. It's a great set-up since both are, in one way or another, a form of legalized gambling. The House doesn't want to lose and if it views you as being too skilled, it'll make sure that you leave quickly.

If you've never been to Japan, then, the closest that you might have gotten to the Japanese style Sega version that are located in various movie theatres across the country. The claw that grabs the toys is two pronged. In some games, you need to pick up the toy and then drop it into the chute. In others, you need to push it so it will slide or punch it until it will fall. The set-up depends on the toy, the machine and how badly the House wants to make a profit.

Your best bet when it comes to UFOs is to go for seasonal items, especially if the holiday is about to end. Most places won't discount items once the holiday is over, and if the item doesn't sell, it will simply be destroyed. I happened to be in Japan on Halloween, so, I was able to take advantage of this. Additionally, the older an item is, the better chance you'll have of winning it. "Old" items, ones that everyone else probably has by now, are not highly desirable. That means that you can take advantage of special features of a machine, such as 3 chances to win a toy for 200 yen.

A few days ago, the UFO arcade near the hotel I stayed at in Tokyo began putting up their Christmas toys. One of the machines featured a mechanical set of Disney Christmas plushies. The set, featuring Minnie, Mickey and Stitch, are all dressed up in holiday attire.

The way that the arcade set it up was that the toy was perched flat, balanced inbetween a piece of plastic and a flexible wire. As the toy is soft, the way to win is to use the claw to maneuver the back of the head to the right side. Once the toy is positioned diagonally, you then move the claw to the middle and push the toy through the slot.

Thanks to the machine's set-up, I was able to get 8 turns for a 500 yen coin. I won the Mickey and Minnie dolls the day before fairly easily, and yesterday, I went back to obtain the Stitch one(they were all out when I was there). With 4 500 yen coins, I managed to win four more of these dolls. At one point, I had quite a crowd around me, watching me as I won the items. It made me feel like that "Game Machine Joe" character from Sailormoon.

Anyways, the employees weren't too happy, especially since each one of the dolls aren't cheap. It got to the point that they refused to put any more of the dolls into the machine. They also removed other items from the machines, in the event that I attempted to win those too.

So, I was kicked out.

In terms of the UFO prizes, I was a little disappointed this time around because I was hoping to win "Japanese" items. What I mean by this is that the majority of toys(upwards of 90%) are American characters. And while I expected an overmerchandising of Disney characters, I wasn't expecting the same of Care Bears or Popples. I also didn't appreciate many of these machines featuring gripping material on slots where the toys are about to fall. I guess they figure that people are really foolish enough to play machines where the odds are strongly stacked against them.

re: The UFO KaitouFriday, November 06, 2009 - 1:19:23 AM

my flight is about to board, so I''ll end my entry for now.

See you stateside.

re: The UFO KaitouFriday, November 06, 2009 - 2:42:55 PM

Wow, that was just the opposite of our experience! Other than the children getting kicked out during the evening hours, the employees were practically handing our kids plushies and toys, or they would open up the machine and move things around to give them a better shot at them. It was an absolute blast and the employees were wonderful! I hope you had a great time in Japan (other than the UFO experience) and a safe trip home!

re: The UFO KaitouFriday, November 06, 2009 - 4:21:30 PM

Sounds like you had a good time overall in JP. =) You must be pretty good to win so many UFO prizes. How long were you standing at the machine? We bet if there was no crowd they wouldn''t have noticed as quickly.

While it is not cool the employees did not refill the machines, we can understand a little bit since they probably feared you would''ve kept on going and possibly clear them out if left alone. After all most people only go for a few items and stop.

When we last tried these types of machines in Shinjuku and Mong Kok in Hong Kong we stopped after awhile and just found discount toystores and bought the prizes... much easier and less stress for everyone involved. :P Looking forward to your other stories.

re: The UFO KaitouFriday, November 06, 2009 - 10:35:07 PM

XD Wish I could''ve seen that! Sounds like so much fun, and congrats on your many victories! *lol*

re: The UFO KaitouSaturday, November 07, 2009 - 9:04:29 AM

that story made me laugh hope you had fun and please if you can share pictureas of the plushies

re: The UFO KaitouSunday, November 08, 2009 - 4:31:04 AM

I''ve won a bunch of items in catchers state side, but only because I go for what I think I''ve a decent chance of winning, not what I''d be overly interested in. Still, things like my 50 cent plush godzilla football are fun XD