Welcome to the home of vending machines. Yes, Japan has more vending machines than any other country on earth, with, on average, one machine per 23 people. Now Japlanning has the run down on the latest and greatest vending machines as well as the just plain crazy ones that Japan has to offer.
Japan is truly the home of the vending machine, with more than any other country and here you’ll find machines that sell everything imaginable. That's right -- you will find them on every street and selling you not only cold drinks, but also heated drinks, snacks, alcohol, cigarettes, eggs, flowers, and the list goes on.
In an interesting change to a lot of the world, in Japan anyone can own and operate a vending machine, so if you have a street-front property and some space, you can buy a vending machine, stock it and keep the profits! Because of this, you will find many machines all next to each other, all selling every brand imaginable, hmmm perhaps a Japlanning vending machine is in order...
First up is the drink vending machine, which you will notice is everywhere: train stations, bus stops, lane ways, country roads, even at the summit of Mt Fuji. They are by far the most common vending machine in Japan.
However these aren’t the normal coke vending machines we all have back home. No, it’s not just a 5-8 drink option with plastic buttons. The beverage vending machines vary in Japan, from standard cold drink vending machines with usually anywhere between 10 and 20 options, then there are variations to these, ones that have hot beverages and cold beverages in the same machine! No this isn’t a Frankenstein creation that just isn’t natural. These amazing machines offer everything from hot coffee to soup in-a-can, right next to an icy cold coke, and it’s hot! How these have never been seen at home is a quandary.
Drink machines expand to alcohol, coffee and hot cocoa machines, and every other drink imaginable, are all represented in various drink vending machines across Japan. They have even evolved beyond the 20 option machine with display bottles and button choice, the latest drink machines, from first look, are just a large LED screen, these machines visually show their hot and cold options with full details about each drink and advertisements for them just a finger press away. These new machines even have camera built in to scan those walking by so they can, based on age and gender show drinks that will appeal to you most. Brilliant!
Possible one of the best features of many drink vending machines is the factor of concern the owners have. Many vending machines in subway stations, and on the street, have sensors in them, so that if an earthquake or other emergency happens they will dispense free drinks to all, to keep people hydrated! Only in Japan.
Now we’re starting to look at the more uncommon ones, back home do you have many food vending machines? You’re probably thinking the chip vending machines, well this is not what we’re talking about today. In Japan, there is a huge variety of vending machines that will keep you satisfied. The most common one you will find is the Cup Noodle machine, that will give you a quick hot cup noodle of a variety of flavors, then next to it, you’ll find dessert with a ice-cream vending machine right by it.
If you’re looking for something more substantial perhaps finding a hot food vending machines will keep you full and your hunger at bay. These machines can be found around most cities and in many hotels. You can get Hot Chips, Hot Dogs, fried rice, and more from these in just a few minutes.
However if you’re looking for some fresh made goods, just pop into many ramen restaurants in most cities, and you’ll be surprised with what you find - no order counter or person wanting to help. No, you will find a few vending machines covered in buttons and menu items. Select what you want, pay, and a ticket will come out for you take to the kitchen, and in a few minutes you will have the freshest and tastiest noodles you have ever had. Don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese, most shops have plastic models of all food items in the window with the number of the item on it so just match up to the machine.
Perhaps you would prefer to make all your food at home, but don’t like to go to the store? Well Japan has thought about you too. You will find vending machines for so many more food items like bananas, rice, popcorn, vegetables, milk, eggs, and so much more. If you were in the right neighbourhood, you might be able to do all your grocery shopping by vending machine!
Another hugely popular vending machine, of sorts, that are all over Japan are capsule machines. These small toy machines, you may have seen back home, however not in the quantity you will find in Japan.
In many electronic stores you will find areas with hundreds of capsule machines, filled with toys from the latest anime, video games, Disney, and more, even collectables from fast food restaurants and miniature camera replicas, to miniature capsule machines! It’s a capsception! You can just about find any mini toy imaginable in these machines. Be careful, these get addictive fast, and at only a couple of hundred ¥en a pop, the cost will add up fast, too. If you do happen to partake, perhaps throw the plastic capsules out before flying home, to save space!
Vending machines are all about convenience, however, there are some truly unique vending machines all over Japan that you’ll be hard pressed finding anywhere else around the world.
You will find at many major train stations, flower vending machines, where you can pick up a beautiful arrangement for that special someone, or perhaps you forgot to grab a tie for your big meeting, there’s a vending machine for them too! Batteries are common vending machines, and stationary supply machines, so you can keep your mobile office running and your loved ones happy.
One of our favorites you’ll find at most train stations too: the Umbrella vending machine! It’s the epitome of convenience in a place like Japan, where it can rain at a moments notice.
Perhaps the most notorious vending machines in Japan are the well know used panty vending machines. These machines are illegal, but do still exist in some quiet alleyways and secluded areas in Tokyo. They are kind of like a white whale where everyone has heard the legend of them, however the entire team at Japlanning have never seen them, in our countless journeys to Japan. If you google or youtube it, you can probably find some blurry pictures and video of the legend.
Vending machines are definitely a fantastic part of the Japanese culture, they are everywhere, varied, and so convenient that when you head home it is always one of those everyday things you wish your own country would adopt like the Japanese have.
Be sure to stay tuned with Japlanning, as we have planned a full day challenge while we’re in Tokyo in the coming weeks, where all our food and drink can only come from vending machines, it’s time to put the ultimate convenience to the test! Will we make it?? Keep following us on Facebook and Twitter for the live commentary, and look out for the full report, on Japlanning.com when we return!
So what are your favourite vending machines in Japan?
Tell us in the comments below!