4 Types of Vending Machines in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

4 Types of Vending Machines in Japan

By Guidable Writers Nov 24, 2020

This post is also available in: Indonesian

It is not uncommon to see rows of several vending machines when walking around Japan. Vending machines may be considered proof of good public safety in Japan because they operate 24/7 without anyone ever trying to steal their products or the cash inside.

Why Are Vending Machines Popular in Japan?

It is not uncommon to see rows of several vending machines when walking around Japan. Vending machines may be considered proof of good public safety in Japan because they operate 24/7 without anyone ever trying to steal their products or the cash inside. The most popular machines are the ones that sell drinks, but vending machines also sell food, tickets, toilet paper, etc. You might think this is strange if vending machines are uncommon in your country. It is bothersome for Japanese people to go all the way to a store to get just one drink, especially when they are in a hurry. Moreover, vending machines are good for companies because they can directly sell their products, saving costs when you consider that stores and their employees act as middlemen.

Here are the 4 most popular types of vending machines.

Beverages: The “Vending Machines”

You see beverage vending machines everywhere in Japan. They have several canned and bottled beverages: coffee, tea, soda, juice, etc. However, these products are set based on sales data and the season, so the lineup is occasionally updated. But don’t worry, the dummy cans/bottles are displayed in front of the machine so that you can compare and choose your drinks easily.

Meanwhile, you might be surprised at the picture above because cold beverages and hot beverages are set in the same vending machine, which means a vending machine can serve both hot and cold drinks (coffee, particularly). These hot and cold vending machines contain thermal insulation material to store multiple beverages at different temperatures. Many vending machines sell only cold drinks in the summer, but hot drinks are stocked at the end of summer (this period depends on the machine’s proprietor). The machine is basically placed where people often gather: stations, in front of supermarkets, bus stops, etc. However, some are also set in the countryside, where you can find only a small number of supermarkets or convenience stores so that people living there can access food and drinks anytime. Also, some machines serve their products for free when natural disasters hit the area.

Non-essentials: Can you Believe It?

It might be hard to believe for non-Japanese people, but alcohol and cigarettes are also sold at vending machines. These machines are set in front of supermarkets, liquor shops, etc. They are also freely accessible 24/7.

This has led to the concern that children and the under-aged might also try to buy these products. In fact, children used to go out and pick up alcoholic drinks for their parents (the writer used to do it). Though many of these vending machines are self-regulating and stop operating from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., it is not enough to prevent underage purchase and use. As a result, many people think that this machine should be completely removed from the streets.

To improve the situation, recently existing machines are being replaced with new ones called age-verification vending machines. In particular, a separate age-verification card called “typo” has been invented for cigarette purchasing from these vending machines. Buyers can also use the card as electronic money while purchasing. However, this special card is only for cigarette purchasing. There still isn’t any designated card for alcohol machines. The card is just an age verification tool; you cannot use it as an ID.

Check out this page for more detail.

Snacks: Grab a Light Meal at the Vending Machine

You might think Japanese people don’t like to communicate with other people because we can get some snacks at these vending machines! You can see them at service areas on the expressway, on the ferry, etc., replacing cafeterias and serving people who want to have a meal quickly. They usually sell light meals like musubi, noodles, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. However, the machines set in long-distance ferries also serve miso soup, rice, and some entrees such as frozen food if there is no dining area available on the boat. Therefore, there are some special restaurants nationwide, referred to as “auto restaurant” or “coin snack,” which is operated by vending machines alone and, are of course, open for 24 hours a day. These restaurants are located on national driving routes and are frequently used by long-distance truck drivers. The lineup contains noodles, curry, rice, gum, etc. Amazingly, the foods are made automatically. Unfortunately, due to the increase of CVS, fast food restaurants, etc., the number of these restaurants has been decreasing sharply lately, so if you have the chance, try it soon!

Another popular type of snack vending machine is the ones that sell ice cream. The products displayed here are varieties developed specifically to be sold at vending machines. Because they come on the stick, you can eat the products without a spoon, and it is good for dessert while you are out and about and craving for something sweet.

Newspapers: A Must for Japanese Businessmen

Have you seen all the businessmen reading newspapers on the train? Japanese people even get newspapers at the vending machine. This one is not as uncommon because you can also see newspaper vending machines outside of Japan. Each newspaper company places these foreign machines to see several different newspaper vending machines on the road. In Japan, however, they are operated by newspaper distributors, which means several newspapers are sold in the same machine. You have options ranging from the general news to a sports paper, whichever suits your fancy. The machines are often set at train stations.

Because sports papers are issued every day (except January 2nd of each year), you can read sports papers even when it is a general newspaper holiday. It is called the special edition and is issued mainly for business people.

You might find it odd because business people often subscribe to newspapers from home. However, these newspapers at the vending machines are different from those they or their office normally subscribe to (especially sport or financial papers). Even though the news is also available at the CVS or in its electronic edition, physical newspapers’ demand is still solid in Japan. Perhaps some of them need sports papers to check the game results of the team they like, or perhaps they want to buy some betting tickets for horse racing, etc., secretly.

What Are Your Favourite Vending Machines?

Do you have a favourite vending machine? There are some mentioned on this list that is even more unique and rare. Have you spotted any bizarre vending machines around Japan? We would love to know!



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