A visit to Japan will entail meeting some of the most unique vending machines in the world, and that is why they are so popular.
It is quite possible that no other country in the world has vending machines like Japan. Overall, this country has a serious love for its conveniently located snack vendors and has nailed the art of vending machines to boot. A visit to Japan is certainly not complete without trying at least something from its world-famous vending machines, especially when cities like Tokyo make it an exact science.
In other parts of the world – like the United States, for example – vending machines are just automated showcases for things like soda and crisps. In Japan, vending machines offer everything from full meals to ready-made meals. That being said, one can find some pretty unique snacks without ever leaving the street they stay on – here’s how.
How vending machines have been so successful in Japan
For those hoping to come face to face with a vending machine in Japan, there’s good news: they can be found virtually everywhere. While the most abundant source of vending machines is in densely populated areas like Tokyo, they can be found scattered across the country. According to matcha, vending machines took off in Japan due to their low crime rate, which made the machines incredibly efficient. In addition, the overheads of vending machines are very low, making them one of the most cost-effective options for people living in busy cities. The fact that they are “open” 24/7 doesn’t hurt either, making it easy and inexpensive to buy many modern amenities at any time of the day or night.
Most Popular (and Unique) Vending Machines in Japan
Nowadays, you can find almost anything in a vending machine in Japan. While typical machines exist for dispensing things such as food and drink, there are also vending machines designed to dispense actual items, such as t-shirts and toys. It seems like there are no limits to the creativity of a vending machine, especially in Tokyo – here are some of the more unique things travelers will find.
- Canned Oden: When it comes to vending machines for food, Japan is pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible. Oden is a popular dish made from soy-based dashi broth with fish patties, daikon, hard-boiled eggs, etc., and it can be found (hot!) In a vending machine. Complete with a small toothpick used to eat the ingredients for the dish, the broth is easy to sip on on the go.
- Sake vending machine: That’s right – for a shot of sake, all you need to do is find a sake dispenser! The most popular is located at Ryogoku Station in Tokyo, and has three different types of sake to taste.
- Gachapon: Also known as small toy vending machines, these can be found in gachapon halls around Tokyo, in particular. While one can get an idea of what kind of toy they might get after inserting their parts, it’s still a surprise, for the most part – but still something fun and unique to play with.
- T-shirt vending machine: At Shibuya 109 Mall, visitors will be able to shop for brightly colored t-shirts with the push of a button. It’s more of a novelty than anything, plus – who else can say their t-shirt came from a vending machine?
A few other unique vending machines that can be found in and around Tokyo:
- Curry vending machines
- Vegetable vending machines
- Egg vending machines
- Umbrella vending machines
- Hot / Fried Food Vending Machines
- Fruit vending machines
- Flower vending machines
- Pancan vending machines (boxed bread)
- Pokémon vending machines
- Pancake vending machines
- Cup Noodle Vending Machines
- Rice vending machines
How to use an ATM in Japan
For the most part, vending machines in Japan accept coins and not much else. Although there are some nowadays that accept cards, most often they are local cards in Japan. Therefore, tourists should be prepared to keep cash or coins on hand if they plan to engage in purchases from vending machines. Suica and Pasmo cards can also be used depending on the distributor, as long as they have been loaded beforehand.
Other than that, the process is quite similar to any other but can be more complex depending on the type of vending machine one is using. For the most part, visitors will insert their coins or money, follow the on-screen instructions (which could very well be in Japanese!), And choose their selection. Some vending machines have English translations, but not all.
- Point: If a light flashes red under an item, it probably indicates that it is sold out.
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