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All About Vending Machines in Japan
All About Vending Machines in Japan
16th February 2022 • by Adam
16th February 2022 • Dispensing Joy • by Adam
Dispensing Joy
It’s a wonderful thing that we’re able to provide delicious drinks from the other side of the world and deliver them to your door, isn’t it? If Tofu Cute didn’t exist, the only other way to get them would be to travel to Asia and get them from a shop, or if you’re lucky, a vending machine.

This is my awkward attempt to connect what we do here at Tofu Cute to the surprisingly wild world of vending machines in Japan. If you weren’t already aware, Japan holds the record for having more vending machines than any other country in the world. Competition breeds innovation, and as a result, it’s also home to some of the most interesting, creative and generally fascinating vending machines in the world.
Vending machines, but slightly better
Known locally as 自動販売機 ‘jidouhanbaiki’ or informally just 自販機 ‘jihanki’, Japan has a LOT of vending machines across its urbanized areas, with an estimated over 5 million vending machines in total, increasing at a rapid rate.

A large majority of these vending machines are regular drink vending machines that you might find in a lot of places, but overall just a bit nicer than the average coin-only coca cola machines you’ll find in a UK train station. I appreciate that this may sound like a bit of a weird thing to say or even care about, but if you’ve experienced it yourself you may already know what I mean.

A typical Tokyo vending machine will contain a range of cold soft drinks. This usually includes varieties of water, lots of types of soda from classics like fanta to more obscure flavours of ramune and frequently a range of tea based beverages - green tea and royal milk tea being the most common. A lot of them also have Pocari Sweat and other isotonic or even healthy drinks, of course. In addition, a lot of them have a ‘hot drink’ section that will heat up a variety of canned or bottled beverages: usually tea or coffee, but I’ve also seen canned soup make an appearance in these fairly often. Anyone fancy corn potage?

All of these selections are usually provided in machines that offer both cash and card payment options at generally ‘pretty good’ pricing when compared with buying the same drink at a shop. After the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, vending machines were even utilised to deliver free drinks to communities that were impacted.
Not Just Beverages
Of course, there wouldn’t be much of an article here if all we had to talk about was slightly cooler drinks vending machines. In Japan, dispensing drinks is just the tip of the iceberg. Vending machine technology is often utilized in interesting and innovative ways, paving the way for how we might consider vending products in the rest of the world.

Need some fresh eggs for that cake you’re baking? Pop by the fresh egg vending machine on the way home. Need milk for that same cake? A vending machine’s got you covered. Need some flour? I don’t actually know of any flour vending machines, but you get the idea. The vending machine pictured to the right serves curry powder!

Of course, I don’t want to exaggerate the scope of the situation here: there’s still a lot of things vending machines don’t serve, and some of the more unique ones are spread out in different prefectures and regions of the country. But with that disclaimer out of the way, here’s some of my personal favourite Japanese vending machines or vending machine trends I’ve been made aware of.
One of the most personally exciting vending machines that I know exists is the ’Pizza Self’ pizza vending machine. This amazing device cooks you a complete Pizza and delivers it to you, complete with cardboard box. Reviews seem to suggest it’s pretty good!

I think we can all agree that bananas are pretty useful - they provide you with plenty of potassium (hard to get from other places) as well as plenty of dietary fibre. That’s why this Banana vending machine by Dole is so cool. I’d love to see more fresh fruit vending machines in the UK!

Cake in a can. Do I need to say more? This stylish looking vending machine will dispense you a wide variety of cakes of different styles in a beverage style can container.

In Gunma, you can visit a ‘restaurant’ that goes by the name of Automat Diner. Here you’ll find tables, chairs, plates and cutlery, but no staff to take your order or serve it to you. Instead, you can choose a meal from one of the various food vending machines that offer meals like ramen or burgers inside, and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a neat idea.
The Business of Convenience
Of course, with so many vending machines, you have to wonder why and how it got to this point. There’s unfortunately no easy answer, but if you look at the history books, you’ll see that vending machines started to become popularised in Japan around the time of their economic boom in the late 80s.

Although the initial boom of vending machines was born essentially out of competing corporate interests, the process of owning a vending machine to have outside your place of business (or even just your house, I guess) became more and more accessible over time, with the set-up and maintenance of the machines being taken care of by large external companies who take a cut of the sales. It didn’t take long for lots of places in Japan to decide they needed a vending machine as a side hustle, especially in the warm summer, where everyone needs a drink. The accessibility of owning a vending machine combined with the demand for the convenience of drinks everywhere you go resulted in vending machines being everywhere in Japan: even on the sides of mountains and in buddhist temples.
Whether you love or hate vending machines, there’s no denying that the vending machine culture of Japan is pretty interesting. Hopefully you learned something! We’ll be back with more investigations of cute culture next time on the Tofu Cute Blog. And if you’re craving the refreshment of the kinds of beverages or snacks you might find in one of these machines, we just might be able to help you out with our wide selection of drinks and candy. Hooray!

Images retrieved from WikiMedia and DancingBacons on Youtube.
It’s a wonderful thing that we’re able to provide delicious drinks from the other side of the world and deliver them to your door, isn’t it? If Tofu Cute didn’t exist, the only other way to get them would be to travel to Asia and get them from a shop, or if you’re lucky, a vending machine.

This is my awkward attempt to connect what we do here at Tofu Cute to the surprisingly wild world of vending machines in Japan. If you weren’t already aware, Japan holds the record for having more vending machines than any other country in the world. Competition breeds innovation, and as a result, it’s also home to some of the most interesting, creative and generally fascinating vending machines in the world.
Vending machines, but slightly better
Known locally as 自動販売機 ‘jidouhanbaiki’ or informally just 自販機 ‘jihanki’, Japan has a LOT of vending machines across its urbanized areas, with an estimated over 5 million vending machines in total, increasing at a rapid rate.

A large majority of these vending machines are regular drink vending machines that you might find in a lot of places, but overall just a bit nicer than the average coin-only coca cola machines you’ll find in a UK train station. I appreciate that this may sound like a bit of a weird thing to say or even care about, but if you’ve experienced it yourself you may already know what I mean.

A typical Tokyo vending machine will contain a range of cold soft drinks. This usually includes varieties of water, lots of types of soda from classics like fanta to more obscure flavours of ramune and frequently a range of tea based beverages - green tea and royal milk tea being the most common. A lot of them also have Pocari Sweat and other isotonic or even healthy drinks, of course. In addition, a lot of them have a ‘hot drink’ section that will heat up a variety of canned or bottled beverages: usually tea or coffee, but I’ve also seen canned soup make an appearance in these fairly often. Anyone fancy corn potage?

All of these selections are usually provided in machines that offer both cash and card payment options at generally ‘pretty good’ pricing when compared with buying the same drink at a shop. After the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, vending machines were even utilised to deliver free drinks to communities that were impacted.
Not Just Beverages
Of course, there wouldn’t be much of an article here if all we had to talk about was slightly cooler drinks vending machines. In Japan, dispensing drinks is just the tip of the iceberg. Vending machine technology is often utilized in interesting and innovative ways, paving the way for how we might consider vending products in the rest of the world.

Need some fresh eggs for that cake you’re baking? Pop by the fresh egg vending machine on the way home. Need milk for that same cake? A vending machine’s got you covered. Need some flour? I don’t actually know of any flour vending machines, but you get the idea. The vending machine pictured to the right serves curry powder!

Of course, I don’t want to exaggerate the scope of the situation here: there’s still a lot of things vending machines don’t serve, and some of the more unique ones are spread out in different prefectures and regions of the country. But with that disclaimer out of the way, here’s some of my personal favourite Japanese vending machines or vending machine trends I’ve been made aware of.
One of the most personally exciting vending machines that I know exists is the ’Pizza Self’ pizza vending machine. This amazing device cooks you a complete Pizza and delivers it to you, complete with cardboard box. Reviews seem to suggest it’s pretty good!

I think we can all agree that bananas are pretty useful - they provide you with plenty of potassium (hard to get from other places) as well as plenty of dietary fibre. That’s why this Banana vending machine by Dole is so cool. I’d love to see more fresh fruit vending machines in the UK!

Cake in a can. Do I need to say more? This stylish looking vending machine will dispense you a wide variety of cakes of different styles in a beverage style can container.

In Gunma, you can visit a ‘restaurant’ that goes by the name of Automat Diner. Here you’ll find tables, chairs, plates and cutlery, but no staff to take your order or serve it to you. Instead, you can choose a meal from one of the various food vending machines that offer meals like ramen or burgers inside, and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a neat idea.
The Business of Convenience
Of course, with so many vending machines, you have to wonder why and how it got to this point. There’s unfortunately no easy answer, but if you look at the history books, you’ll see that vending machines started to become popularised in Japan around the time of their economic boom in the late 80s.

Although the initial boom of vending machines was born essentially out of competing corporate interests, the process of owning a vending machine to have outside your place of business (or even just your house, I guess) became more and more accessible over time, with the set-up and maintenance of the machines being taken care of by large external companies who take a cut of the sales. It didn’t take long for lots of places in Japan to decide they needed a vending machine as a side hustle, especially in the warm summer, where everyone needs a drink. The accessibility of owning a vending machine combined with the demand for the convenience of drinks everywhere you go resulted in vending machines being everywhere in Japan: even on the sides of mountains and in buddhist temples.
Whether you love or hate vending machines, there’s no denying that the vending machine culture of Japan is pretty interesting. Hopefully you learned something! We’ll be back with more investigations of cute culture next time on the Tofu Cute Blog. And if you’re craving the refreshment of the kinds of beverages or snacks you might find in one of these machines, we just might be able to help you out with our wide selection of drinks and candy. Hooray!

Images retrieved from WikiMedia and DancingBacons on Youtube.
About the Author: Adam
Adam is the lead writer of the Tofu Cute Blog and Wordsmith person at Team Tofu. When he's not making fun content for Tofu Cute, he enjoys being a huge nerd. He spends his free time gaming, reading, cooking and figuring out ways to make Godzilla and other giant monsters real.
About the Author: Adam
Adam is the lead writer of the Tofu Cute Blog and Wordsmith person at Team Tofu. When he's not making fun content for Tofu Cute, he enjoys being a huge nerd. He spends his free time gaming, reading, cooking and figuring out ways to make Godzilla and other giant monsters real.
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