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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Did You Know #8 - Vending Machines

Give me convenience, or give me death.

According to the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization), at any time in Japan there are about 5.52 million vending machines, with annual sales derived from the machines coming in at almost ¥6.95 trillion (US$64.12 billion).

Any guesses as to what Japan’s first vending machine was?

That’s right - cigarettes, first appearing in 1888.

Nowadays, vending machines in Japan offer a wide variety of things:
  • cigarettes;
  • drinks (hot coffees and cold soda pops, often in the same machine);
  • snack foods (usually something Japanese food-like, such as wasabi-covered everything, dried squid - as a few examples);
  • magazines - porno, manga (comic books);
  • Alcohol - wine, beer, sake - though I did not see a corkscrew on the machine after Ash and I purchased a bottle of Spanish red while thinking about spending an evening in a Love Hotel - I got it open;
  • Rice - huge 10 kilogram bags of it - like seriously… WTF…;
  • Ice cream - it actually was dispensed in an ice cream cone, like the old coffee dispensers of old… cone comes down, soft ice cream poured down atop it;
  • Condoms - but only in Japanese sizes;
  • Fresh cut flowers - but because sometimes at 2AM, you have no effing clue what you did wrong.
There was a rumor that there was a vending machine in Tokyo where one could also purchased soiled school girl panties. Urban legend?

Back in the old days, along with purchasing stamps for the mail, one could also purchase a disposable camera that came with a roll of film in it. You could get a standard 24 or 36 shot camera with a flash you charged up by pressing a button, or the same with a small wide or even telephoto lens. To develop the film, one simply took the entire disposable camera to a film developing place where they would simply rip the film from the paperboard camera. It was inexpensive, no controls involving focus - it was idiot proof… except for the flash. Remember… flash photography—even with your digital camera and super-cool phone—is completely useless in a stadium or arena.

What I find interesting about the vending machines in Japan, however, is that at no time did I ever see a vending machine that sold either chocolate bars or potato chips—two of the staples at least here in Canada.

I also never saw a vending machine that wasn’t working in three years spent in Japan.

I did find a vending machine out in the middle of a field, with an extension cord going dozens of meters to some hidden electrical outlet… why it was there, I have no idea… who thought this was a good idea, was smart enough to know that one day, some stupid gaijin (foreigner) would find himself lost in the middle of the day in August, unable to find anyone to help him… and it would save his life. Melodramatic, sure… but when you’re hot, you’re hot.

I also never had a vending machine “take” my money and not give me my porno magazine Georgia Coffee et al.

Also… thanks to a very low crime rate, vending machine companies don’t have to worry about drunken hooligans breaking in to swipe the coins or bills each machine can take in.

I used to own a small table top vending machine: pop in a dollar and twist a knob round and round, and a chocolate bar or bag of chips would drop down. The people working the night shift at my former place of employment would lift the damn thing up, or snake an arm in and steal me blind. After that happened twice, I simply refused to refill it, took my vending machine and went home.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top found at
Lots of good vending machine images there, as well as other fun stuff to check out.
PPS: Opening line on this blog is the name of a Dead Kennedy's album.


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