How do I find Japanese phone charms and toys?

Ketai charms from candlemomo's flickr stream. Cute!

I’m sure you have seen many Japanese films, manga or TV programs were a character will pull out a mobile phone. Mobile phones (cellphones) are called keitai in Japan, which literally means mobile. In the recent animation Final Fantasy Advent Children – phones feature prominently. When Cloud pulls out his phone, he has a number of cool toys dangling off the side.

These charms are extremely common in Japan. Phones here are all quite standard, they’re a similar square-ish shape – and most have a surprisingly good camera built in. Towards the top of the phone there’s a small hole – here you can thread chains to hold an assortment of toys.

Some Japanese and foreign people tend to have more toys and keitai charms than phone. Nearly everyone stylizes their phone – business men, school kids, old people – anyone who has a phone tends to have charmed it. Charms are also prominently seen hanging from school bags and rucksacks.

Where do all these charms come from? Well in Japan they’re everywhere. Individual servings of soft drinks will often come with charms attached. Quite recently Evian water came with little stylized pewter crosses – which I think where from various German families several hundred years ago. Pretty random. Currently Lipton lemon tea comes with Hello Kitty wearing a variety of costumes, lovingly moulded in plastic. I have the hello kitty dressed as a horse I think – both odd and cute.

Japanese brand soft drinks more familiar domestic brands include these charms very often – it makes me unhappy that they don’t do it back home. Coke and Pepsi always have some thing exciting looped around the bottles neck in a foil packet. The latest film may elicit, for instance in the case of Advent Children, Final Fantasy based toys. Pepsi recently had a lot of Mario figures but currently it's Gundam robots. Vending machine drinks – as far as I can tell - never come with prizes. You have to go a conbini (convenience store or corner shop such as Lawsons, Sunkist, Circle K or one of the many others)

Flickr picture of some keitai charms from Rakka's stream
Phone charms tend to become rather collectable and in certain shops old charms are sold for extortionate prices. In places like malls and around trendy clothing / junk shops there will also be racks of machines that dispense plastic balls that contain phone charms and general toys. Each machine has a general theme – Gundam, Hello Kitty, a variety of anime, bugs, Little Princesses …

This is where the vast majority of people’s charms come from :- Drinks and Special Machines. Of course I have also have received charms with condoms – a Durex man with a head that looks like sperm giving the thumbs up. With such a phone you’re sure to be irresistible to the opposite sex. Now and again random things like a six pack of beer will come with charms too.

Hundred-yen shops also have run of the mill charms – flowers, imitation jewellery, leaves, large stuffed puppies almost as big as the phone and other assorted miscellanea. Hundred-yen shops tend to be great places to poke about anyway they sell lots of weird and unexpected things.

The final place where charms come from is special “fan”-editions, of films or video games. General a fan edition will cost several times more than the normal edition but you will receive a lot of extras – that are of extremely high quality. T-shirts, models and toys, books, the making of DVDs, key rings, phone charms – that sort of thing. These charms tend to be extremely well made and flashy.
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