So this post is going to be all about my experience playing UFO catcher or crane/claw games in Japan. I am in no way an expert, but I can give basic tips and share what happened yesterday. I can basically check off “play and win UFO catcher games in Japan” and can start saving up for next year since I pretty much spent maybe $40 on claw games. Now that I have some better skills I can feel better about investing money next year.
So to start out we must use what the wise SpongeBob SquarePants said and “be the crane.” Just kidding; unfortunately this is not an excellent TV show. This is real life. This is serious.
Japanese claw games are the best and worst things ever. The prizes are notoriously cute and can easily take your money. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m super tired and don’t feel like structuring this post very well, so here are some random tips.
Only go to popular places with lots of workers. The more workers, the better in my opinion. Popular places can also afford to have their prizes won in large amounts. The kindness/helpfulness of the workers will vary, but generally they will give you hints on how to win and will reset the prize/exchange it for you if you want a different color. With that being said, always ask to reset the prize, unless it is in a favorable position. Which brings me to point two.
Look a little desperate/and or cute in front of the workers. This sounds bad, but sometimes if you look like you REALLY want it then they will reset it in a super easy position where it will fall easily. It also helps if you look cute. And foreign. Places want foreigners to have a good time and win a souvenir. I can’t use the foreign look to my advantage because I look Japanese-ish and can speak some Japanese, however I did look desperate when I really wanted this giant hamster plushie. Usually they want you to spend some money first, and then after they see you struggle a bit they will reset it. She reset it so all I had to do was push it down. It took a total of 6 tries and 1000 yen; not bad because it is worth over $30 online. AND IT IS SO CUTE!!! I was so grateful because the big stuffed animals are pretty hard to get without them being reset in my opinion, unless you move it a lot. Which goes to point three.
Be prepared to invest a bit of money. You may have to move the stuffed animal a little bit at a time before it is in a favorable position. My host brother took 10 tries to win this stuffed animal I really wanted. However, do not invest in something that is not worth it. Think of it this way: is this plushie really worth $20? If you really want it and if you can win it it at or under the market price then go for it.
Don’t try to grab the prizes. Instead, move it to a favorable position to be pushed. The claws are far too weak to grab much. The claw games where the animal is supposed to be picked up instead of dragged/pushed are very hard and super impossible so I don’t recommend them. Haven’t seen anyone win those but I have seen people win the ones where the prize falls into. Can’t give advice on the other types of claw machines where the prizes are suspended/need to be cut.
So these games show how greedy I am and how I need to be happy with any winnings that I may make. You see other people who win so much and you are like, “if I can just try one more time and if I can win I will be happy,” but so often we fail and become poor. The games are designed to look easy so you will fall for it. Also, you don’t know how much other people spent and/or how many times it took them to win. All you see is the prize. This is why people become addicted to gambling. Set a limit for yourself and don’t be greedy. But also take a little bit of risk and ask for help, especially if you don’t come to Japan that much, but only if you know you can set yourself a limit.
My host brother helped me get the Olaf: 3 tries for 300 yen. I won the rest by myself. The bunny was my first try for 100 yen, but I failed on other bunnies in the machine. The dog/fox took two tries for 400 yen. And the hamster was 6 tries for 1000.