Faces of Strangers: Unusual Capsule Machine Dispenses Random ID Photos

Lifestyle

A new “capsule toy” has become a big hit on social media in Japan. In the Kagurazaka district of Shinjuku, Tokyo, stands a machine dispensing ID snapshots of random strangers. While novelty and surprise are appealing factors for fans of gacha-gacha capsule toy vending machines, these apparently humdrum faces have drawn an unexpectedly enthusiastic response from people willing to pay for one of them.

One purchaser, who has come to buy on behalf of a friend, receives the photo of a serious-looking man in a suit and tie.
One purchaser, who has come to buy on behalf of a friend, receives the photo of a serious-looking man in a suit and tie.

All the ID photos are real, like those used in passports or to apply for jobs. In less than a month since the machine’s appearance, 1,000 have been sold.
All the ID photos are real, like those used in passports or to apply for jobs. In less than a month since the machine’s appearance, 1,000 have been sold.

“I thought it would be fun to stick an ojisan [middle-aged man] photo onto my smartphone, so I came to buy one,” a visitor says, adding, “As long as it’s an ojisan, anyone will do.”

Another buyer comments on the picture: “It’s so interesting. I wonder who it is. I bought it for something to talk about, but now I don’t know what to do with it. I’ll enjoy showing it to the people at work. I might put it on display there.”

Some visitors buy more than one of the capsules, and one person comes from as far afield as Osaka. But whose idea was it to make the capsules anyway?

Capsule creator Terai Hiroki

We spoke to Terai Hiroki, the man behind the “ID photos of strangers,” who explains their appeal as follows. “Everyone wears masks in the pandemic as a matter of course, so there’s no chance to see other people’s faces. ID photos seem to be as close as you can get to seeing their real faces. You can wonder about what job looking they’re for, what kind of people they are, and what their names are. It’s fun to imagine all kinds of things.”

Terai is apparently seeking models for a possible second round of ID photos at the end of April.

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on April 6, 2022. Banner photo: The Kagurazaka machine contains photos of 10 people; purchasers are urged to “collect them all!” at ¥300 per capsule. Translated and edited by Nippon.com.)

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