What’s so interesting about Japan’s vending machines?

Cool and hot drinks inside the same vending machine? Only in Japan!

Around half of the vending machines in Japan sell drinks, and this has led to the development of proprietary technology such as that which enables both “attakai” (hot) and “tsumetai” (cool) drinks to be housed inside the same vending machine.

Japan’s high-tech next-generation vending machines

Some vending machines now display their products on touch-panel displays. People can buy what they want simply by touching the display, although the machine will also suggest other products that it thinks are perfectly suited to the customer. If you visit railway stations in Tokyo, you can experience for yourself next-generation vending machine models that are just like the near-future vending machines often seen in movies. The products displayed change to reflect the season or time of day, etc., and when no one is standing in front of the machine it becomes a giant animated character putting out messages and promoting new products.

Sensors installed in the vending machine automatically estimate the user’s age and gender, and then appropriate product suggestions are made. For example, young women may be recommended types of water containing vitamins or jasmine tea, while male employees returning from work may receive suggestions for coffee or energy drinks.

These next-generation vending machines are located in the main JR train stations around Tokyo (336 of these machines have been installed as of April 1, 2012). There are also increasing numbers of vending machines that accept electronic money as well as cash.

There is such a vast array of vending machines in Japan, from high-tech through to low-tech machines. If you have found a vending machine that has surprised you, please tell us about it in the Reader Discussion.

A collection of novelty vending machines

Capsule toys
Capsule toys

A book vending machine
A book vending machine

A banana vending machine

A vending machine selling apples

A vending machine for “JINS PC” computer glasses
*As of July 2012 at JINS Self Shops in “LaLaport TOKYO-BAY” (Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture) and “Natori Aeon Mall” (Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture).