Home > Focus on Japan 2005, Japan Fun Facts > Japan Fun Fact #7: Vending machines

Japan Fun Fact #7: Vending machines

January 18th, 2005


You’ve probably heard about all kinds of crazy vending machines in Japan, like those that sell jewelry, hot lunches and even schoolgirls’ underwear–but the fact is, such machines are pretty rare. That’s not to say that vending machines are rare in Japan–quite the opposite. Aside from scattered cigarette butts in the street, they are perhaps the most ubiquitous sight in Japan. And while most are for soft drinks (including water, coffee and tea) and most of the rest are for cigarettes, there is still a fair number that are for alcoholic beverages (and still fewer, though no less noticeable, for condoms, usually located outside pharmacies). One such alcoholic vending machine set is pictured above, though only beer is sold from it (some offer saké and/or bottles of whisky).

Now, you would think that such publicly available and unpoliced vending machines would be an open invitation to minors to buy and consume alcohol–and you’d pretty much be right. The only measure taken to safeguard against such things is that the machines automatically turn off at 11:00pm. Which, if you ask me, is pretty stupid–as if that’s the time after which minors are mostly out and about? What’s to keep a 15-year-old from buying up drinks at 10:30?

But, as I said, most vending machines are for drinks, and yes, they are everywhere. It is hard to go several blocks without seeing a cluster of them, and they are not just outside convenience stores and other shops. You’ll find them everywhere. Even on Mt. Fuji. In fact, the vending machines on Mt. Fuji are an excellent way to keep track of your progress up the mountain: the higher you go, the more expensive the drinks become, from normal prices at the fifth station starting point, until you pay 300 yen for a drink at the peak (at least that was the price when I last climbed).

A few small notes about Japanese vending machines: first, there are no snack or candy vending machines. I don’t know why. And second, in my experience, they never have problems with old paper money. Every American knows quite well that if you try to put a beat-up dollar-bill into a vending machine, you have to unfold the corners, feed it into the slot repeatedly, and pray real hard. Never had that problem in Japan.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2005, Japan Fun Facts Tags: by
  1. January 18th, 2005 at 10:33 | #1

    The vending machines are one of my absolute favorite things about my visits to Tokyo. As I usually visit in August for various business reasons, it is always nice to know there is a cold drink with in a short walking distance.

    As for no snacks and candy, I would *guess* (and I stress guess) that it is due to the frowning upon of eating in public. I know, I know, no one pays attention to that, but that is an old social rule in Japan from what I understand. I would also assume it has to do with the frowning upon of public littering. (again, I know it happens, but I know they prefer you not to notice it)

    While I know there are tons of recycling bins for the cans and bottles from the vending machines, have you ever noticed the severe lack of trash cans? Heaven forbid you ever need to throw away a kleenex.

  2. gooch
    October 29th, 2005 at 23:24 | #2

    They _do_ have snack vending machines in Japan!

  3. Luis
    October 29th, 2005 at 23:46 | #3

    OK, maybe a few–I noticed one at the Oi Wild Bird Park–but they are rare, and their selection is poor.

  4. troy
    April 27th, 2006 at 04:59 | #4

    wait school girls underwear?!?!?!?!?! thats crazy!!!!

Comments are closed.