How to be a UFO Catcher Master

In the spam of 2 weeks I have somehow increased my plushie collection by 9 plushies. 3 big ones, and 6 little ones. For a self proclaimed UFO Catcher noob, this is a huge achievement.

My wins:


Cat Rilakkuma
Alpacas x3
Steel Samurai, Blue Badger, Phoenix Wright

It took me about 1400yen to get the Rilakkuma, 1500yen for the Gudetama and 500yen (or was it 400yen?) for the Chansey.

The alpacas cost about 600yen in total to get (so 200yen each) and the Ace Attorney plushies cost an average of 400 to 500yen each. Considering how much more expensive they’d be in an actual store, it’s still worth it.

But behind this facade of me winning and being some amazing master at this, I’m really not. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to catch something. In all my years of trying, this has been the best loot I’ve ever gotten because I got better at knowing how to win.

1. Watch videos to learn the technique

It started with watching Japanese variety shows on masters/veterans sharing their tips and tricks, to watching YouTube videos of successful attempts. Knowing how to tackle each machine type makes it that much easier. You’ll know where to position the arms, what area of the plushie to aim at and what progress looks like.

Alternatively, you can ask the shop staff for tips if you’re at a loss, or, if the plush is stuck, to ask for help repositioning it.

For an in depth list and explanation of techniques, read my Ultimate Guide to UFO Catchers on Japanista!

2. Know which type of machine is easier to win at

There are so many different types, from the ones where you push the plushie down, through bars, boxes with hoops on them, sliding hoops off balls or knocking them off a pole to dropping ping pong balls into the marked spot. Some are easier than others – Rilakkuma plushies seem relatively easier to win compared to the big round ones. Plushies with big heads or a large part are easier to become ‘unbalanced’ and fall with a well positioned push.

Sometimes the toys aren’t very well positioned either, so it’ll take extra tries to get it into a good spot. Our alpacas were very well positioned and the claw wasn’t disappointingly weak so we could get the best positioned ones in one try, and the slightly farther away/not so great ones in about 3. Which is why Denise and I caught 5 in total.

3. Commit

Sometimes you give a machine a try to gauge the claw strength and if it’s too weak or the plush is stuck, you give up. But if you’ve already put in say, 1000yen into the machine – STICK TO IT! But of course, I say this only if you know that some progress has been made. This is how I won the Gudetama plush. I’d put in 1000yen in tries and it had slid quite a bit past the original mark (one of those hanging on ball types) so I thought I’d just gun for it and continue trying. I threw in another 500yen and after the 6 tries (1 for 100, 6 for 500yen!) had myself a new friend.

Of course this didn’t always work and I burnt 1000yen trying and failing to get a Luna plush.

4. Practice

Because you’ll need to know just where to let go, how to position the claw and have good depth perception and precision. Which is usually why it takes a few tries at the start to get a “feel” of the machine. You’ll also get better at techniques (or learning when to give up – our wallets aren’t bottomless). I’ve never tried the box machines, for the figurines because those look soooo difficult. I’ve watched YouTube videos and it cost that YouTuber an average of 3000yen for each figurine he caught.

5. Luck

Hahahaha sometimes all you need is just pure luck. Which is how I got my Chansey, really. Wish we’d filmed that, sigh. It was one of those hanging on the end of a pole with a metal end, caught into a groove. Some how I’d managed to get the claws under the pole just at the edge, catching on the ring AND the pole’s end, so when the claws moved up the “jerk” action made the pole bounce up and the hook BROKE and my Chansey came tumbling down. No one expected it. I don’t even know how to describe it. We tried many times later to get one for Denise too but couldn’t replicate the early success.

Most of how I catch them seems to be stemmed in luck. And then I make so much noise jumping up and down and squealing. I’m sorry.

I need to stop going into game centers – this urge, this NEED to rescue plushies from the machines is getting very addictive. My wallet is crying. This is what rational over 20-somethings do with our money. (*≧艸≦)

My friend caught a Korilakkuma plush in 300yen for me, and has now challenged me to a UFO Catcher-Off when she’s back in Japan. This means I need to practice more. You’ll probably find me in a game center somewhere with my face pressed against the plastic whispering “FALL FALL FALL FALL FALL FALL FALL”. Say Hi!


They’re so cute together

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