When we think of Japan, the first couple of things that might come to mind are sushi, sumo and Dragon Ball. But if you’ve been to Japan, you’ll most probably add vending machines to that list. Why? Because Japan has about 1 vending machine for every 23 people in the whole of the country! Yes, you may think that’s a lot of soft drinks and chocolate bars…but no! These jidouhanbaiki do more than just sell drink and snacks.
Of course you can find the usual like Coke, but even that comes in odd shapes sometimes.
You will also find a lot of Pringles, hot tea and coffee, and beer vending machines. Already a few of those seem different from the regular ones we find in London. But here are a few more uncommon ones: battery, flowers, eggs, iPods, ramen, designer condoms, umbrellas (for rain or shine), disposable cameras, toilet paper, neck ties, Onitsuka sneakers, cigarettes, live lobster…and the list goes on.
But probably the most amazing thing now is that you can even get free wifi in over 1000 Asahi vending machines now (nice!). The vending machine allows you to connect to the internet, whether you buy something or not, for 30 minutes, and emits a signal within a 50m radius. When people connect to this free wifi, they will find location-specific information on the homepage, which Asahi hope will help revitalise local areas. They hope to make 10,000 of these Wi-fi jidouhanbaiki in the next five years in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Chubu, Kinki and Sendai.
And with all these vending machines about, chances are you might run out of spare change. But if you have オサイフケータイ (osaifu keitai – literally “phone wallet”), you can use that to pay. スゴイでしょう！
Finally, you have some vending machines called, shokkenki, which work in conjunction with ramen stands and allow you to buy meal tickets. So as to avoid money handling, you simply get your meal ticket and give it to the ramenya-san (ramen shopkeeper). Nice and easy 🙂
This may all sound overwhelming, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a few of these in London?!