One of the things I was surprised about when I traveled abroad was that vending machines are not very common like in Japan. There are vending machines at almost every corner in the center of Tokyo, and they are very familiar for me since I often buy beverages from vending machines.
The first vending machine in Japanese history
The first vending machine in Japan was created in 1904, and it sold stamps and post cards. The machine was a revolutionary invention not only because it was also used for post, but it had two other important functions. The first one was that the vending machine didn’t accept false coins, and the second one was that it returned coins for people if it didn’t have any stamps and postcards inside.
Vending machines for beverages came from the US
The first vending machine for beverage was imported from the US to Japan in 1962. Four years later, the one-hundred-yen coin became widespread, and it also lead the increase of the number of vending machines. But the main reason why beverage vending-machines became popular is the machine which can sell both hot and cold drink was invented in 1974. If you thought “I have been to Japan several times, but I have never seen that kind of beverage-vending machines!”, it was because you stayed in Japan only during summer. We can usually buy both hot and cold drinks from vending machines from October to April. (I heard that beverage companies change the timing to start and stop selling hot drinks depending on regions and the average temperature.)
Unique or strange? Other types of vending machines in Japan
Are vending machines only for beverages? The answer is “no”. There are many types of vending machines, and let me tell you some of them.
Ice cream-vending machines
Seventeen ice is famous ice cream series which is sold only in vending machines. Popular flavors are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookie&cream, and chocolate&mint. They also have other flavors for ice cream, but they keep changing flavors to sell, and I’m not sure if they always have the flavor you want to try. The Seventeen ice vending machine in the picture sells above five flavors plus cheesecake with mango, vanilla with caramel, strawberry sundae, Belgian chocolate, cookie&chocolatechip, peach&raspberry, satsuma tangerine sorbet/sherbet, chocolate cake, baked cheesecake with strawberry, café latte, vanilla with soda, vanilla inside wafers, and milk with red bean paste inside wafers.
What I like about this Seventeen ice cream is they have more than seventeen flavors even though their name is “seventeen”. When Glico, the company who manufacture the ice cream, started selling ice cream in 1983, there were just seventeen flavors.
I’ve never seen “Trump Rice” at supermarkets, but found it in a vending machine! It says the rice is 100% made in California, but I’m not sure if this rice is officially related to President Trump…
The vending machines that sells alcohol beverages are not common and the number is decreasing, but they still exist at certain places. It is forbidden for people under twenty years old to drink alcohol by Japanese law. People who want to buy alcohol’s drinks at convenience stores, super markets or liquor shops need to show their ID. (I heard that staff members at those stores sometimes don’t ask people to show their ID if they look over twenty-one years old obviously.) If you think that children can buy alcohol drinks by vending machines, you are half right and half wrong. Most of vending machines that sell alcohol beverages have a function that people can’t buy it without using their driver’s license card. (Apparently the machines can recognise date of birth on license.) However, there are still some vending machines without this type of function…
Unlike the alcohol beverage machines, almost one hundred percent of cigarette vending machines have the function for not selling cigarettes to children. If you want to buy cigarettes from a vending machine, you need to apply for ID card called TASPO (It is a coinage, Tabaco + Access + Pass port), which proves that the holder is an adult., and you have to use your TASPO whenever you buy cigarettes. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect way to prevent children from buying cigarettes because the machine cannot recognize a person who tries to buy cigarettes are the same as the TASPO holder. So it would be possible for children to buy cigarettes if they borrow TASPO from somebody…
Chocolate, gummy, rice crackers…there are twenty-one types of snacks in the vending machine.
I found this vending machine at a JR station. The price of a book is about 670~800 yen.
This vending machine sells Takoyaki (grilled octopus dumplings), French fries, grilled rice balls and deep-fried chicken. This vending machine is in the second domestic terminal at Tokyo Haneda airport, Japan. Most of restaurants or shops (except convenience stores) close at night, but not this vending machine.
This vending machine sells instant noodles that we can buy only in certain local areas in Japan. Why does Rirrakuma’s instant noodles are in this machine? I’m afraid I don’t know…, but I know you can buy it only at Haneda airport. I should have bought one of them at least. I will buy one when I go there next time and write about it in my blog!