8 Facts About Vending Machines in Japan
Incredible Volume of Vending Machines
With over 5,520,000 vending machines in Japan, there is about 1 vending machine for every 23 people in the country. Their initial popularity can be explained by a number of factors, such as their long-running national love of all things robotic and their love of convenience at any cost. But the continued growth and success of vending machines can also now be explained by their population decline which leave many rural areas with less part time staff available to work in small shops or confectionary kiosks.
Vending Machines in Restaurants
In many restaurants, customers place their order and make payment through a vending machine. They get a small paper ticket that they pass to the person behind the counter who prepares and hands out their food. This way, the person preparing food never has to touch money, and thus the hygiene of the restaurant is greatly improved.
Hot & Cold Drinks
In a country that can range from over 40°C degrees celsius to less than -10°C, there is both demand for both refreshing cold and revitalising warm drinks, depending on the location and time of year. Japan in typical efficient fashion have developed vending machines that use energy saving thermo recycling technology to both cool and heat drinks in the same machine. 200ml cans of hot coffee are often sold next to 200ml cans of cold coffee. A simple blue and red label around the price tag distinguishes between hot and cold.
Perishable Items in Vending Machines
Vending machines selling non-perishable items can be found all over the world, but in Japan, such is the volume of trade and the brilliance of their logistics, whole farmers markets have sprung up selling everything from free free-range eggs, to lettuce or fresh fruit from vending machines.
10KG bags of rice
As percentage of car ownership is quite low in Japan, especially in the big cities, people tend to shop for groceries locally and often take groceries home in the basket of a bicycle. It is not common to see people taking public transport with many bags of shopping, other than perhaps new clothes. So, in true convenient fashion, many train platforms in residential areas began selling 10KG bags of rice from vending machines, next to where people have locked up their bicycle.
Cigarettes & Alcohol
In Japan, advertising for cigarettes is still permitted and vending machines are no exception. Many machines will feature celebrities or models featuring in the latest tobacco TV commercials from Philip Morris or Japan Tobacco. To use one of these machines however, an age verification ID card (known as a Taspo Card) is required, so foreign visitors may need to go to a convenience store rather than using these machines. Before this card was widely adopted, some machines feature facial recognition technology to estimate the age of the person seeking to purchase the age-restricted item such as alcohol or cigarettes. Beer can be bough from a huge number of vending machines around city centres 24/7.
As many people live alone and work long hours, often the last thing they want to do when they get home is begin to cook a hot meal. Again, vending machines have people covered for this need too. Many fast food style hot meals can be bought and prepared within 60 seconds 24/7 from street corners or train platforms across the country (though if it has to be said, this is a last resort for many people rather than a regular choice, as they quality of this cuisine is questionable in a land full of wonderful culinary options).
In a land constantly seeking novelty and new ways to bring products to market
With over 5,520,000 vending machines in Japan, there is about 1 vending machine for every 23 people in the country.