Japan – The Land of Vending Machines

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Discover Kuriositas
Anyone who lives in a town or city is used to the sight of the odd vending machine. As a convenience they have no equal – at least when they work or have not run out of the product they are supposed to sell. Yet where most countries have vending machines for a limited range of goods the Japanese have taken it to extremes. Japan truly is the country of vending machines and some of the items you can get from them might surprise you.



Image Credit Flickr User Livvy

Who needs people to sell meat and vegetables when a machine will do just as well?  Here a variety of green things are on sale to those who wish to purchase.  To many people in the rest of the world this would seem like quite an odd idea – those who like to have a good squeeze of their veggies before buying them would have to break the glass first.

Eggs from a machine?  It sounds like something that Wallace and Grommit might come up with, complete with cogs and gears and lots of broken eggs. Fortunately for the buyer, once the coins are inserted you are able to open the door and retrieve your eggs.  How, though, do the next eggs arrive in their place?  Whirr, crack, whirr, crack!

Bananas. You can never have too many bananas.

Unless, that is, you prefer tomatoes.

...And if the party runs out of ice, then you know where to go in Japan.

Before we go on to our next vending machines with specific items inside, the reason why these niche machines are able to flourish is because in Japan the vending machine is everywhere. Their ubiquity might disturb a little but there is a market for the goods, obviously.

This shrine just can't get the staff to dispense its souvenirs, so it installed a few machines instead. 

You can never get an ice cream when you want one in Europe.  No such problem in Japan where you get a vending machine that will deliver your ice cream fix to you without any need for human contact.

Forgotten your kid's birthday? These little stuffed animals and other toys  are about 5000-10000 yen apiece (that's about US$70-120, and this simply gigantic vending machine might indicate that perhaps it happens more than you would like to think. Feed in your money, open up the mini-fridge-sized compartment, and pull out your plush toy.

Flowers can say a number of things in a number of ways to a number of people. No wonder, then, that you can get flowers from vending machines too.

Even the Japanese arm of Disney gets in on the act, with some unfortunate lost in translation results. What was intended to be a hybrid of French and American consumer sophistication, this petit mall (a little mall) comes over to English speakers as more reminiscent of an absence seizure (a petit mal) tan anything to do with Winnie the Pooh.

After a hard day at the office there is often the urgent need for a drink.  A strong drink.  But what happens when there is no time to go to the local bar?  Why, just drop your yen in to this machine and you will get a can of beer (or five) in return.  Perhaps the youth of Japan are to be more trusted than that of other nations.  If this were placed in the UK, it would be emptied by hordes of under-aged drinkers in no time at all.  Now, that gives me an idea….

You may not to want to restrict yourself to one brand, so be it.  You can choose from a huge variety of beer and alcohol instead.  Homer Simpson would love Japan!

If your drinking habits are more temperate then there is always fresh milk or orange juice from which to choose.

If you want a DVD to go along with that beer (or milk) as you slump on the sofa - there you go!

If you think you might spill anything down your chest, why not buy a t-shirt in pop container, just in case?

You may simply have forgotten your neck tie in the morning.

Batteries. Now, they're really useful!

That very same evening, the weather turns horrible and you realize that you have left your umbrella at home!  In most places there would be no option – just get wet on your way back home.  In Japan, head for the vending machines!  Here, even umbrellas can be purchased from static ‘shops’ with no shopkeepers!  No more rain-soaked journeys, then!

Gloves can come in useful, too. Sometimes.

You may also get a ladder in your panty hose.  Well, help is not far away in urban Japan. Yes, lingerie is also available from a vending machine.

If you are peckish and want something hot and (possibly) substantial to eat than there is no faster food in the world than that which can be found in Japan.  Some great flavors too… the taiyaki (the fish shaped cake) looks particularly appetizing!

Well, maybe not after all.

If you don’t fancy noodles, then you can always go for something a little more occidental.  Hot dog and fries, anyone?  It looks, too, as if you can choose between your fries lightly done and crispy.  There are a variety of meals here which don't look like something you might get in McDonalds, However.

In the UK cigarette vending machines were banned completely in March 2012. For the smoker who has just run out of cigarettes, however, Japan still offers a full choice from vending machines. Plus you can develop large muscles (instantly) while smoking, too.

In fact, advertising in general does not seem quite so regulated in Japan as it is elsewhere.

Bizarrely, you can buy mystery bags from vending machines in clothes stores in Japan. Presumably they're for people who don't know what they want or in what size, but they know they want to get the money out of their wallet as quickly as possible.

Finally, yes of course, there are many vending machines in Japan which dispense what you might call grown up items - and we will leave most of them to your imagination.  Yet if you are in to dressing up as a doctor or nurse (among other things) then yes, there is a vending machine for you too.

First image credit Flickr User J Pellgen

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