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September 2022

Cultural Article

Unique Vending Machines in Japan

by Akito Okabe

“In Japan, everything comes in a vending machine!”

We often hear this opinion from tourists who have come to Japan, and it is true that no other country has vending machines that are as well developed. Living in Japan, it is commonplace to see vending machines not only indoors, such as at train stations or convenience stores, but also along the street.

Vending Machines Located Outdoors (by Lordcolus)

In terms of the simple number of vending machines, Japan lags behind Europe and the United States, but in terms of the number relative to the population, it is by far the largest, indicating that Japan is a "vending machine superpower.”

I would like to introduce a few of them in this article because Japanese vending machines are a rarity for people from overseas, and it is uniquely part of Japanese culture.

There are several reasons why vending machines became widely used in Japan. The first instance of expanded usage was in 1964, around the time of the Tokyo Olympics, when Japanese National Railways (JNR) introduced ticket vending machines and a large number of coins were put into circulation. Later, around 1974, "hot and cold machines," which were exclusive to Japan, became widespread, and these machines were popular with consumers.

Hot and Cold Machine (Image by: acure)

The fact that Japan is a safe country and there was little risk of robbery or vandalism when vending machines were introduced also contributed to their spread. The vending machines also offered significant advantages for sellers, such as higher profit margins, the perk of beverage manufacturers being able to display their products alone, and the ability to conduct market research.

However, it is said that the number of vending machines installed in Japan is already saturated. In fact, after peaking at about 5.6 million in 2000, the number has been gradually declining year by year. In order to expand the market for vending machines and increase their value, Japan has been evolving its own vending machine business. Here are some examples unique to Japan.


(Image Credit: macaroni and DIAMOND SIGNAL)

These vending machines sell ramen from famous restaurants in frozen form, allowing you to enjoy delicious ramen in the comfort of your own home

Fresh Foods:

They don't just sell frozen foods, they also sell fresh foods! The strawberries in the photo are very fresh because they were picked that morning. They are very popular and sell out quickly. Such cases of vending machines selling local specialties are also common in Japan.


This article only introduces food, but there are many other vending machines in addition to these. Some sell gold and jewelry, and others allow donations to be made through them. Vending machines can be found in places close to wherever you would be, such as subway stations, so please try using one when you visit Japan!

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