When you think of UFO catchers do you think about James Spader in that movie Alien Hunter from 2003? (which I never saw). Or perhaps the new Roswell, New Mexico TV show (which my nephew stars in, by the way!). Do you imagine people chasing after flying saucers with giant butterfly nets?
Well, if so . . . Sorry, but you’re wrong!
Most of you reading this probably know that a UFO catcher in Japan is what we in the West usually call a claw machine, claw crane, or crane game. It’s those big clear box arcade games full of stuffed toys and other useless items where you drop in coins one after another only to be frustrated by the limp claws that can’t seem to pick anything up!
Well, in Japan they are a bit different than the standard ones here, although the principle is exactly the same. The actual device with the claws in Japan does often look like a little UFO floating about trying to abduct the myriad prizes in the case.
But also the prizes in Japan are sometimes quite valuable. I’ve seen them with high-end electronics and expensive collectible toys. Other times it’s snack food, blind boxes, and even fruit! Sometimes you’ll even see mundane household items like dish soap and trash bags. See this SoraNews24 article to see these and more things you can try to grab with a claw machine instead of just going to the store (and probably paying a lot less). One has a full-size wooden katana in it! But in spite of all of these unusual items, you’ll find plenty of plush toys too, and will get your fill of Hello Kitty, Doraemon (both pictured above), and more.
When I was in Japan, I met a guy who could clean these machines out. I was amazed. He was a master. He barely ever missed his mark and would leave arcades loaded with stuff. It was really incredible to me, because I’m someone who could easily spend thousands of yen and leave with nothing. So I rarely bother playing them. I know I’ll be throwing my money away.
But apparently UFO catching is a skill you can learn and level up at. I’m not saying there’s a school. But with the wild places that already exist in Japan (hedgehog cafes), I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a UFO Catchers Academy.
In the second book in The Ghost and the Mask series, which is the sequel to my book Headless and is scheduled for a summer release, there is an arcade scene, and one of the characters is like the guy I met in Japan who is a master at UFO catchers. The arcade scene is a chase scene however, so they don’t have much time to actually score any prizes. But I felt it was a classic backdrop for a Tokyo foot chase.
If you want to learn all you can possibly know about UFO catchers, how to beat them, and even how to spot the ones to avoid because they are unbeatable, go to www.ufocatcheraddict.com. They have tips on all the different types of machines so you are sure to go home with that prized Pikachu.