Playing for Prizes at Japanese Arcades ~ My Wins & Top Tips!

Arcades are one of the flashiest parts of a trip to Japan. Often 3 floors or more, you can find fighting games, rhythm games, pachinko machines and lots and lots of prize machines. Mid last year I got crazily hooked on prize machines, unfortunately there is a limited variety in Australia, and they are crazy rigged. So when I went to Tokyo, I knew I had to check out their arcades, and from the picture below, you can see I didn’t do too shabby with my wins. I played in arcades in both Ikebukuro and Akihabara, generally i have to say I found the arcades in Ikebukuro a lot better. The staff were friendlier, it was not so crowded and the prizes slightly easier to get. In this post I’ll be talking about my experience in these arcades, referring to how I won the prizes below and give you my tips to win stuff but making sure you don’t break the bank!

Japan 2018 Crane Game Prizes.jpg

Avoid the ‘Claw Machines’!

Mini Claw Machines Japan Tokyo Arcade

One thing you’ll notice is that there are so many different types of machines in Japan, and they all have different names. The most common one, is the ‘ufo catcher’ which has two prongs that are used to manoeuvre but not pick up the items. I’ll go into the other ones in the next section, but for now, the next most common type is the ‘claw machine’. Claw machines are the standard here in Australia, it’s the three prongs which close around the item and try to pick them up. The problem with claw machines is that they do not rely on skill, they rely on luck. The claw’s strength is usually pretty week but once in every 50 goes (for example) it will tighten and be strong enough to actually move the item. During my first trip to Tokyo last year, I probably dropped about $40 on claw machines and only won, one small toy. Don’t waste your money on these, save it for other games you can play and actually have a decent chance of winning.

Work Out What You’re Good At

Monster Strike prize arcade

As I briefly mentioned there are so many different types of machines to win prizes in. Each machine deals with different types of skill sets. The UFO machines are focused on knowing how to slowly change the position of an item so that it drops down the hole. Other machines such as the ‘cutter’ or ‘pulling’ machines are focused on accuracy and lining the machine up with what the prize is attached to. To know what you’re good at, unfortunately you’ll have to play a few times to work it out. Thankfully, I worked out pretty quickly I’m awful at the pulling and cutting machines. However, i was really good at this one specific type of UFO Catcher. In the one pictured above you have to aim the prong so that it wiggles the plastic off the edge. I won 8 prizes with these types of machines which were mostly found at Adores and Game in Ikebukuro. If there’s a specific prize you want that’s in a machine you’re bad it, chances are it’ll be in another machine in a different arcade. For example my Hatsune Miku figurine was always in the regular UFO catcher, after walking in and out of a number of arcades, I finally saw it in the UFO catchers that I like, in Adores Akihabara and quickly got it for about 800 yen!

Pick Your Battles…

Taito Station Akihabara no help.jpg

When I was going through Taito’s Akihabara arcade I saw this sign. The sign was on quite a few of their machines. Essentially in arcades if you are stuck with an item, for example it gets in a position you can’t move no matter what, you can ask the arcade workers to help you. Sometime if they are super duper nice (like they were with my big shiba inu plush – thank you Sega Ikebukuro!) they will move it into an easier position and help you win it. Some places which aren’t so nice will still move it but just move it a few steps back. But it’s insane to think of a place that would just move it back to the start position!

Another point in picking your battles is look for games that have just been played but the workers have not had a chance to reset. Don’t be a vulture and hover around but keep your eyes out for easy prizes. For example, I ended up snagging Pingu completely by accident, I was walking past and saw him hanging off the edge. All in all, Pingu cost me about 500 yen to win, because someone else had already spent the other 2000 yen getting him to that position. Also in picking your battles in picking your shops, look for shops where the workers are very friendly and often walk around to look at how people are going. For example, I went into Round 1 in Ikebukuro, there was a machine I wanted to play on but wasn’t sure. I asked one of the workers to swap the prize (as I didn’t like the one that was in there) and saw that he swapped the prize and then moved the prize I was aiming for in a  really difficult position! Whereas when I went to Sega Ikebukuro a lovely girl working there saw me looking at a prize and quickly gave me some tips.

…And Know When to Quit

You see that Jolteon pokemon plushie in the first pic? Man, I freaking hate that plushie. You know why? Because I spent 3000 yen getting it. I didn’t know when to walk away, and instead just kept feeding the machine my money. This tragedy occurred in Sega Akihabara, I really wanted the Vaporeon version but thought Jolteon would be easier to get. I put in about 1200 yen and got it to a pretty good position, I asked a female attendant for help as it was stuck and she gave me some tips. At 2000 yen, I had the body like below and I still couldn’t push it down! I called for help but this time a guy came and what did he do? He TOOK THE ENTIRE POKEMON OUT AND RESET THE FREAKING THING. I should have left right then, but instead I wasted another 1000 – 1200 yen winning a plush I never really liked in the first place. Don’t make the same mistake. Before you play a game tell yourself how much you would be willing to pay for it. If you’re getting too close to that point and you don’t see yourself winning it, walk away. There’s other prizes to be won.

Jolteon Plushie Sega Arcade Akihabara.png

The below figurine was in pretty much every arcade that I went to, I knew I would have liked it, but chances were I would have spent 1500 -2000 yen trying to get it. That’s when I visited BookOFF, a second hand book, games and figurine shop. I found the figurine in pristine condition for 950 yen. Unfortunately there aren’t many plushies sold in BookOFF but if you’re looking for anime arcade items you’ll be in luck!

Homura Akemi Magia Record Figurine Crane Game.jpeg

I really hope that any would be prize players have found my tips helpful! As a general rule of thumb the arcades in Akihabara are quite difficult but they do stock more anime themed items. I’ve found the Ikebukuro arcades to be quite friendly, especially Sega and Game. Generally, Adores was not the most friendly arcade but I found their prizes easiest to get. Always remember you can ask the arcade workers for help and make sure not to go over budget!

Till next time~!


6 thoughts on “Playing for Prizes at Japanese Arcades ~ My Wins & Top Tips!

  1. I think I’ll stick to second hand shopping for the figures given I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a prize out of one of those machines.


  2. Wow, nice stuff, but I don’t think I’d risk my money! I play the crane games at my local Walmart sometimes, but it’s only a quarter a play, and I usually only play 1-2 times. Nowhere near as nice stuff, but I don’t get caught up in it either.


Comments are closed.