Why Are Japanese Claw Machines So Popular?

by Krystina Quintana

Claw machines are some of the most challenging arcade games and the most addicting! While some may say these machines are rigged, we say it's all fun and games. In America, claw machines are pretty popular. If you head to Japan, you'll find a whole country in love with the crane machine. From physical claw machines to apps that simulate the claw game, Japan has a strong passion for trying to win plush toys that dangle from the metal claw.

Below, we explore the history of these games and why they're so popular.

Where Did Claw Machines Come From?

The history of claw machines is a little bit foggy. The early versions of the crane vending machine were created in the late 1800s in America. These early versions were inspired by a steam shovel, though they were not launched to the public until the 1900s. The initial prizes in these games were tasty candies.

In 1960, Sega and Taito launched the first crane game in Japan. At this point, the prizes were still candy and cookies. In the 1980s, America saw a spike in the game's popularity. In contrast, Japan had already developed a love for this game in the 70s. As the popularity grew, the number of crane machines also grew.

Why Are They So Popular?

There's no simple reason why claw machines are so popular. Perhaps it's the adorable or fun prizes that you can win. It may also be a competitive nature that drives consumers to want to get the toy or prize to drop into the bin. Either way, it's undeniable that they're highly addictive games.

How Much Does A Play On The Claw Machine Cost?

The cost of the claw machine depends on how high-end the prices are. However, you can expect most claw vending machines to be around 100 yen (about $0.80). Depending on where you go for a claw machine, you may find some as low as 10 yen (about $0.09) for small prizes per game.

What Types Of Items Can You Get From A Claw Machine?

You can still expect cookies and candy from some machines. However, most of these claw machines are all about soft, squishy plush stuffed animals. These stuffed animals make it challenging to walk away from the claw machine.

You can also find figurines of beloved anime characters, prize figures, and hikkake figures. Hikkake figures are kawaii, aka super cute, figures that sit on top of a box or other similar surface. Many people love that these characters are perched on a box, so you can have them keep you company on any surface.

What Are The Most Exciting Items You Can Get?

We love the noodle stoppers that you can get from the crane vending machine! These toppers come in the form of different character figurines. They help hold your ramen cover from opening, so you get perfectly steamed ramen noodles every time.

Claw Machine-Inspired Prizes At Home

Sure, you can play a few games at a nearby claw machine to try to win a prize. Or, you can enjoy these claw machine-inspired prizes without spending hours and money at the crane machines. Here are a few adorable plush toys that you'll love!

Alpha Mini Yoshi Plush

This mini Yoshi plush is super adorable, squishy (a prerequisite), and small enough to carry around or display. This Super Mario plushy will add a cute touch to your room. They also make great gifts.

Alpha Mini Yoshi Plush

Alpha Mini Kirby Plush

Need a friend for your mini Yoshi? Try adding this mini Kirby plush to your collection. It even comes with a keychain, so you can easily attach it to a purse or backpack.

Alpha Mini Kirby Plush

Lig Gudetama Talking Plush

If you want to take your plush collection to the next level, you can check out this Gudetama plushy that talks! It does a little dance and repeats what you say in any language. This is one plush that you’ll want to display front and center.

Lig Gudetama Talking Plush

While Bokksu Boutique has adorable toys, it's also full of delicious Japanese snacks and Japanese candy. You can enjoy Japanese sweets or try a Japanese candy box if you have a sweet tooth. Not sure what to order? Try a Japanese snack subscription box. This Japanese snack box is packed with authentic Japanese treats that are sweet and savory.

See a real crane game in action with our TikTok!

By Krystina Quintana 

Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.