Vending Machines: Convenient or Overkill?

Special in Japan: Abundant Vending Machines

Introducing a new type of blog post I’m calling: Special in Japan!

Recently I’ve only been writing about big trips and events, but there are so many other things I experience and learn every day that I also want to share.

So to post more consistently and not leave out these fun life snippets, I’ll try to keep these posts short and sweet! (Just like this strawberry milk drink you can get from a Japanese vending machine!)

Strawberry Milk Drink
Strawberry milk drink

Segue to today’s topic, vending machines in Japan!

Vending Machines in the US vs. Japan

In the US, I rarely saw, let alone used vending machines. From my vague memories, they were usually grungy, filled with less than exciting goods, and frustratingly unpredictable (your snack might not come out even after you paid!).

Head over to Japan and the vending machine scene is completely different. They are high-tech, clean, fully stocked, and everywhere.

By everywhere, I mean that you will find multiple machines right next to each other, a few more across the street, and even more down the road. Standing at any given city street corner, you are bound to spot at least 5 of machines at a time.

Vending Machines next to Each Other
Vending machines side by side

I often wonder why there are so many vending machines… I don’t have a great theory except that they all tend to be stocked with slightly different offerings at slightly different prices. Maybe people just like having many choices and don’t want to walk far…?

Moving onto contents, can you guess what these machines sell? If you guessed coffee, soda, ice cream, juice, energy drinks, cigarettes, and alcohol, you are correct! Unlike machines in the US that sell both snacks and drinks, the majority of machines in Japan are stocked with beverages.

(Yes, you can buy cigarettes and alcohol from vending machines as long as you are over 20 and use your driver’s license.)

As I mentioned above, the vending machines are high-tech. Not only do they keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold, many also accept forms of cashless payment.

As long as you have some sort of money on hand (cash, IC card, NFC cellphone payment), I don’t see how you can go thirsty in Japan.

Cashless payment vending machine
Cashless payment vending machine

The convenience of these machines is great, but as someone who is accustomed to always carrying around a reusable water bottle, I tend to worry about all the extra plastic containers…

It’s nice knowing that these machines are around if I’m ever in a pinch, but I don’t really use them much. There are some special machines scattered around though that do have some good deals.

Discount Vending Machine
Discount Vending Machine

How many vending machines can you spot in the photo below?

Vending machines in Japan
Answer: 7!

Have you ever used a vending machine in Japan? If so how was your experience? I hope you enjoyed this Special in Japan post! Let me know what you thought and if there are other things you’d like to know about Japan!

3 thoughts on “Vending Machines: Convenient or Overkill?

Add yours

  1. I’m fascinated by the sheer number of vending machines in Japan. Have you tried one of the ones that sells an entire meal? I watched a YouTube video recently about a vending machine restaurant. They tried ramen and burgers from the vending machine. I’m not sure I’m brave enough for that!

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