In Japan, there are so many vending machines all over the country. You cannot live in Japan without using them at all. This article explains the history and current situation of the vending machines in Japan.
History of Vending Machines
It is said that the first vending machine was made in the ancient Egypt to sell the holy water at the temple.
In Japan, the first patent of vending machine was issued in 1890. The existing oldest machine is for selling postal stamps. It has a high specification to reject the false coins. The first big hit was the machines for the sweets in the package in 1924. The machines spread rapidly in 1960’s according to the emission of the new coins. The biggest event was that JNR (Japan National Railways) introduced machines to sell the train tickets in 1967 for the rationalization of the management. It was successful to reduce the number of sales staffs. Now, because of the invention of the automatic entrance gate, they need much less staffs.
After that, the number of vending machines continued to increase and there were 5.6 million machines in 2000.
Drink Vending Machines
You cannot walk along the street in the city without seeing drink vending machines at all in Japan. Do you know how many drink vending machines in Japan? Nearly half of the vending machines in Japan are for the drinks, so the number is about 2.5 million, which means one machine for every 50 people!
The drink makers distribute these machines throughout Japan because they want to have as many opportunities as possible to sell their products. It is convenient for passers-by. Now, you can buy both cold drinks and hot drinks from the same vending machine. There are blue lines for the cold drinks and red lines for the hot drinks, so please be careful when you buy the drinks.
Recently, you may find the machine to recommend which drink you should buy by watching you with the camera. If you look tired, they recommend you a energy drink.
In the drive-in, you may find regular coffee vending machines. After you put the money in, the machine starts to grind the coffee beans, put them on the filter and pour hot water to make real coffee. It may take 1 or 2 minutes. Most of the machines have functions to be able to choose the amount of the coffee beans, sugar and cream. Of course, you can have a black coffee. If you would like an ice coffee, the coffee is served with ice.
When the coffee is ready, the small door of the machine opens and coffee in a paper cup with lid is served.
Food Vending Machines
There are many food machines, too. I explained above about the machine to sell sweets. Nowadays, there are machines to sell cooked food such as hamburger, pizza and octopus ball called “Takoyaki”. On the other hand, you can buy frozen food such as ice cream from the vending machines. You also find them mostly at the drive-in.
Cigarette Vending Machines
Can you believe that you can buy cigarette by the vending machine? If so, you may be surprised because the youth under 20 (you have to be 20 to smoke) can buy it. Actually there are many cigarette vending machines in Japan.
If you want to buy cigarette from the machine, you need to use the ID card called “taspo” which only adults can obtain. If you are a foreigner, you still can buy the cigarette at the convenience store, which may ask you to show ID card to verify that you are an adult.
Meal Coupon Vending Machines
At many Japanese style fast-food restaurants such as ramen and “gyudon” (rice with stewed beef on it), you need to buy the coupon first. Then you show the coupon at the table to get food.
Other Vending Machines
You can buy all sorts of things from the vending machine. Newspapers, magazines, capsule toys and even fortune papers at the temples and shrines. For the travelers, you can buy SIM cards and travel insurance at the international airports.
Very few Vandalisms
You may think it is not safe to place vending machines on the street, but there is very little worry that the machine might be vandalized. Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Even if a machine is broken into, the thief would be disappointed because many people use e-money nowadays and so there is unlikely to be much cash.