Japans Vending Machines: Everything You Need To Know

Mar 14, 2024Shopify API

Here’s everything you need to know about Japans vending machines. Check it out!

Step into the fascinating realm of Japan's vending machines, a symbol of convenience and innovation. From hot meals to quirky gadgets, these ubiquitous contraptions offer more than just refreshments.

Our guide unveils everything you need to know about these high-tech wonders, an essential part of the Japanese lifestyle.

Japans Vending Machines

According to Statista, in 2021, Japan had a total of 2.25 million vending machines, however during 2018, Japan had nearly 5 million vending machines. 

The data depicts that the trend of vending machines is dying in Japan but we’ll see why vending machines in Japan were booming in the early years and the reasons for their downfall currently. 

If you’re interested to know more about the vending machine culture in Japan, then make sure to read further below!

The Earliest Vending Machine In Japan

When a foreigner visits Japan they’d be surprised to see how prevalent vending machines are across the country. There are several types of vending machines in Japan that offer a plethora of products that you can’t even imagine. 

The obsession with vending machines in Japan began in the late 1950s when the first-ever vending machine “Fountain Juice Dispenser” was introduced to the public. 

Evidently, people grew curious about the vending machine and wanted to try out the juice box. The cheap price of 10 yen for the juice even increased the demand for it.

Japans Vending Machines

That’s when the trend of vending machines began in Japan and new businesses saw this as an opportunity to promote their products in the same manner. Needless to say, these businesses definitely enjoyed huge profits during the peak of vending machine sales in Japan.

This also increased the demand for vending machines by businesses and during the late 70s, the number of vending machines in Japan crossed over 1 million. And during the digital era, the usage of vending machines in Japan grew exponentially due to new technological specifications.

Why Are Vending Machines Popular In Japan?

We know how vending machines came to be known among the Japanese but why are they so popular in Japan, unlike any other country? Well, there are several reasons why vending machines are more popular among the Japanese such as:

The Fascination With Technology

Japan is all about innovative technology from high-speed bullet trains to robots, automatic toilets, and whatnot. The old robust vending machines were modified and made to look sophisticated which made people yearn more for purchase through vending machines. 

Vending Machines Are Convenient

People in Japan are continuously on the move and since working hours are long people look for convenient alternatives like vending machines for food and beverages. Standing in supermarkets and stores just to get a cup of coffee can be time-consuming, hence the Japanese prefer using vending machines instead. 

Vending Machines Offer Affordable Products

Vending machines in Japan are known to provide food and beverages for an economical price. The Japanese people are not known for spending lavishly, they like to keep it simple hence the demand for low-cost goods sold on vending machines is on the rise.

Businesses Prefer Selling Products Through Vending Machines 

Vending machines are fully automated and only require human input when someone wants to make a purchase. The needlessness of staff to serve the customers is an idea loved by businesses because they don’t have to undergo labor costs. 

Low Crime Rates In Japan Help To Maintain Vending Machines 

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world where crime rates are very low. Hence, there’s an unlikely chance anyone would vandalize the vending machines and steal the products. This lets several businesses put up vending machines in any location without the fear of being robbed.

Types Of Vending Machines In Japan

In American and European countries, vending machines are mostly known to sell snacks, beverages, and magazines. However, vending machines in Japan offer almost everything that’s able to fit inside a vending machine display. Let’s take a look at some of the sought-after vending machines in Japan below.

Snacks and Beverages Vending Machines

Vending machines with snacks like crisps, chocolates, fries, coffee, and other drinks are very popular in Japan. You’ll find vending machines with food and beverage almost everywhere across Japan, especially in commercial areas like malls, railway stations, and airports.

Fruits and Vegetables Vending Machines 

Believe it or not, you’ll see vending machines in Japan even selling fruits like apples and bananas. In a hurry to make a vegetable sandwich? Don’t worry you can also pick up vegetables from vending machines in Japan.

Cigarettes and Alcohol Vending Machines 

You’re unlikely to find vending machines selling alcohol and cigarettes in Europe or America but it’s quite popular in Japan. However, not everyone has access to these vending machines as they require a specific ID card for proof of age. 

Plushies and Toys Vending Machines 

Vending machines that sell anime-themed plushies and toys are prevalent in Japan. You can find plushies of Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and other anime-themed toys as well.

Apart from the most obvious products sold in Japanese vending machines, you’re also about to find a couple of weird vending machines as well. 

There are vending machines in Japan that offer freshly made hot pizza within just a few minutes. Fresh pizza that’s made by a machine definitely is weird but it’s not as weird as vending machines that sell live lobsters.

Yes, you read that right. There are vending machines in Japan that sell freshly caught lobsters. What’s even creepy is there are vending machines that also sell female lingerie and cosplay costumes in Japan. Who would’ve thought vending machines were that flexible when it comes to selling products?

How To Use Vending Machines In Japan?

Using a vending machine in Japan is not so different from what you’ve used back in your country. 

All you require is the right amount of money to get what you need. However, vending machines in Japan are mostly written in the Japanese language, hence if you’re a foreigner you may need to know a few tips.

Vending machines in Japan only use certain currency denominations like 10 yen, 100 yen, 500 yen, and 1000 yen. Any amount below 10 yen isn’t acceptable in Japanese vending machines. 

Also, make sure to wait till the vending machine offers your change money back if you used a bill higher than the price of the product.

However, you cannot guarantee the vending machine to give you the exact change back if the machine’s too old. 

There are also vending machines in Japan that accept card payments hence you can use your debit/credit card to make payments. Be sure to check if your card type is accepted by the vending machine.

Once you’ve chosen what you want to purchase and paid for it, you’ll receive the product instantly. Now you can take it and enjoy your trip.

Are Vending Machines Becoming Less Popular In Japan?

By taking a look at a few statistics we can certainly say that the number of vending machines in Japan has reduced over time. According to the data presented by Statista, in 2012, the installation of vending machines in Japan was recorded to be nearly 5 million. However, the numbers reduced to exactly 4 million during the year 2021.

What may have caused this downside trend? Well, there are a few reasons that could be behind the cause.

  • In 1995, the government of Japan decided to pull out alcohol vending machines as a means to prevent underage drinking. There are only a countable number of alcohol vending machines in Japan presently and they all require an ID card for age proof. 
  • The ID card system that’s used on vending machines when purchasing alcohol was also implemented on cigarette vending machines. This ID card is called “Tapso Card” and it lets the vending machine recognize the age of the buyer. The implementation of such a system became inconvenient for buyers because they had to always have their Tapso card and take it out when purchasing a pack of cigarettes.
  • Some stores offer food and beverages for much cheaper prices, hence people turned to stores and abandoned the vending machines. 
  • The pandemic has caused most people in Japan to rely on e-commerce websites to purchase goods, therefore vending machines became inferior.
  • Not everybody prefers to purchase through machines. There are people who just want to have some human interaction hence the usage of vending machines eventually declined.

Besides, just like any trend, the trend of using vending machines is also deteriorating in Japan. It wouldn’t be surprising if we witnessed Japan completely abandon the vending machine mania. However, we can still expect a great and innovative comeback from vending machines in Japan since the nation is all about futuristic technology.

Japan’s Vending Machines: FAQs

What is so special about Japanese vending machines?

Vending machines in Japan aren’t dull and robust like the ones in other countries. They’re innovative and customer-friendly which makes people continuously use them.

Vending machines are prevalent all across Japan and especially in commercial cities like Tokyo, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. Another specialty of Japanese vending machines is they offer a large range of items from food and beverages to clothes, toys, cigarettes, fruits, etc.

What vending machines does Japan have?

There are multiple vending machines in Japan that provide the most ordinary and unordinary products. The popular vending machines among the people in Japan are those that sell snacks, hot and cold beverages, and umbrellas.

There are also vending machines in Japan to offer surgical face masks, fast food, groceries, and even condoms and underwear.

Why do the Japanese love vending machines?

The Japanese have a great fascination with vending machines for a couple of reasons. Firstly, vending machines are convenient for small purchases and people aren’t required to stand in queues unlike in stores. Vending machines in Japan are also available in most places hence people have quick access to them.

Vending machines in Japan are also known to offer a plethora of products which makes vending machines a convenient alternative to stores.

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