In Japan, Vending Machines = Life

April 27, 2007 at 3:25 pm 2 comments

To understand why vending machines are so popular in Japan, imagine a rectangular compartment on your street corner that provides everything you could possibly need in an average day.


Fancy some farm-fresh eggs for breakfast? There’s a vending machine for that. Would you like a creamy, steaming café latte to go with your eggs? There’s a vending machine for that, too.

Is it raining out? Just look for a vending machine stocked with umbrellas. Trust me, they’re out there.

Got a taste for hot ramen noodles, oden in a can, microwaved popcorn, dumplings or French fries? Buy lunch for the whole family at the vending machine; it’s always prepared to-go.

Got a hot date this evening? Don’t forget to stop by a vending machine kiosk, where you can pick up flowers, liquor and condoms.

Rather spend the evening alone? Head on over to the friendly porn machine — the blinds covering those products only lift up at night — filled with adult magazines and DVDs. (Anonymity can be good sometimes!)

You’ll also find vending machines that sell toys for kids, sticker photos, disposable cameras, batteries, toilet paper, and name cards. I’ll never forget enjoying a pint of Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream (sadly, not available in the States) from a vending machine outside the beautiful Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.


Even if you go into cardiac arrest, there is a vending machine for you. Since last August, 170 machines contaminating AED (Automated External Defibrillators) have popped up in the land of the rising sun. Daniel Craig’s 007 would be pleased.

vending machines in Japan are open 24/7, every day of the year. They won’t look at you askance or judge you for your purchases, and they’re especially convenient for citizens of a cash-based society. The Japan Times reports there are 5.51 million machines in Japan, raking in a total of nearly 7 trillion yen (around $58 billion) per year.

The products aren’t necessarily the cheapest, however, so if price is your main concern, you’re better off heading inside a store and interacting with a real-life clerk.

Still, after running around the city and hanging out at different vending machines all day, you’ll probably need an energy drink to keep going. Oh, look! There’s a vending machine for that!

Sarah S.

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods.

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  • […] on this blog I confessed my fondness (okay, “obsession” might be a better word) for Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream from Japan. I even wrote the company and asked why it wasn’t available stateside. They sent […]

  • 2. 100 Cards in 1 « JPBizDirect’s Blog  |  July 3, 2008 at 10:16 am

    […] But that’s not all. According to Reuters, “Japan’s finance ministry has already given permission to an age-identifying smart card called ‘taspo’ and a system that can read the age from driving licenses.” People trying to buy cigarettes from vending machines will have to prove that they’re 20 (the legal age in Japan) before the transaction will work. I always wondered about the legality of those beer and cigarette vending machines. […]

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