Japanese Vending Machines Guide: Discover Japan’s Unique Vending Machine Culture!

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If you’re used to the busted and broken vending machines at your local subway station, mall, or gym, you’ll be shocked by the quality and variety of Japan’s vending machines!

In Japan, you’ll find vending machines all over the country, from bustling city streets to quiet rural areas.

Vending machines in Japan
Vending machines all over the Japan

They offer just about everything you can buy from a store, from cooked drinks and hot snacks to toys and electronics.

Let’s take a look at vending machines, a fascinating and convenient part of Japanese culture, and how to use them on your travels to Japan.

Japanese Vending Machines are Amazing!

Different types of Japanese vending machines
Types of Japanese vending machines

Japan has some of the most remarkable vending machines in the world, known for their high-tech features, encyclopedic variety of products, and impeccable cleanliness.

These unique vending machines are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them a convenient option for people on the go.

Here are some of the most amazing Japanese vending machines you will come across:

  • Hot and cold drinks including coffee, tea, soda, juice, and even soup from a range of brands. Some machines even allow you to choose the temperature of your drink. 
  • Fresh food options such as sandwiches, onigiri, ramen, bento boxes, pizza, sweet potatoes, and even sushi. The food is stored in a refrigerated compartment and is always fresh and delicious.
  • Unique Items like umbrellas, batteries, amulets, and even puppies! 

You can also find vending machines that sell toys, manga, and other collectibles.

The History of Japan’s Vending Machines

Japanese vending machines have had a unique role in the country’s culture since they were first introduced in the late 219th century.

The very first vending machine in Japan was a tobacco dispenser made by Tawaraya Koshichi, an inventor in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1888.

It was only in the 1960s that the convenience and variety of Japanese vending machines caught on.

The first mainstream vending machines sold snacks and drinks, but in the 1970s the technology advanced allowing a wider range of products including hot beverages like tea and soup.

These futuristic machines were a huge hit with the Japanese public and quickly became a common sight on the streets of Japan.

Why Are Vending Machines So Popular in Japan?

Japanese vending machines popularity
Vending machines are so popular in Japan

Japan has more than five million vending machines nationwide, more than one vending machine for every 23 people!

This is the highest vending machine density in the world, which drives a $60 billion economy.

There are so many vending machines that the market is now saturated, with no new slots for vending machines available for new business owners.

Here are reasons why Japanese vending machines have been a runaway success:

  1. Convenience is king: One of the reasons why vending machines have become so popular in Japan is because of the country’s culture of convenience. The Japanese lifestyle is a busy one and vending machines provide a quick and easy way to purchase food and drinks on the go, without having to pause at a convenience store or restaurant.
  1. Reliability and cleanliness: Unlike that neglected vending machine at the mall, Japanese vending machines are regularly serviced and maintained, ensuring that they are always in good working order. They are also kept clean and tidy, with many machines featuring built-in trash cans to encourage customers to dispose of their garbage properly.
  1. Keeping cash in circulation: The Japanese love cash and vending machines keep the coins and bills flowing. You can use 5, 10, 50, and 100 yen coins, and 1000 yen bills in most machines. As vending machine technology has progressed, cashless payments have become more widespread, with mobile payments and contactless card payments accepted by many machines. 
  1. A pop-culture hit: Vending machines have also had a significant impact on Japanese pop culture. You’ll see them featured in many anime and manga series, and their design and functionality have become iconic in Japanese pop culture.

The Technology Behind Japanese Vending Machines

Japanese vending machines are known for their advanced technology, convenience, and variety of products.

Though some look baffling, they are very easy to use and usually carry clear visual instructions and multiple payment options.

Japanese vending machines Energy efficiency and sustainability
The technology behind Japanese vending machines

Some of the technologies that Japanese vending machines use include:

  • Cashless Payment Systems which allow customers to make contactless payments with their smartphones, smart cards, or credit cards, for fast and secure transactions. 
  • Touchscreens that display product information, prices, and nutritional values. You can scroll through the products and make a selection. Some machines even have cameras that can detect your age and gender and make personalized suggestions.
  • Refrigeration systems for keeping their products fresh and cool. Advanced vending machine refrigeration systems that can maintain a temperature range of 3 to 10 degrees Celsius with separate compartments for hot and cold drinks.
  • Automatic restocking. Japanese vending machines are equipped with sensors that can detect when a product is running low. The machines then automatically restock themselves by ordering new products from the supplier, ensuring that customers always have access to fresh products.
  • Energy efficiency and sustainability. Many Japanese vending machines are designed to be energy-efficient, using LED lights and low-power motors to reduce energy consumption. Some machines even have solar panels that generate their electricity.

Unique Finds in Japanese Vending Machines

Japanese vending machines are a treasure trove of unique and exciting finds.

From hot meals to quirky souvenirs, there’s something for everyone.

Here are some of the most interesting items you can find in Japanese vending machines.

Hot Meals

Japanese vending machines offer more than just drinks and snacks. You can find hot meals such as ramen, udon, and pizza in some vending machines.

If you’re short of dashi, just head to the dashi soup stock vending machine for a bottle complete with whole Fish! 

These meals are prepared and heated up in the vending machine before being dispensed. It’s a quick and convenient way to grab a hot meal on the go.

Fresh Produce

In Japan, it’s not uncommon to find vending machines that sell fresh produce such as bananas, apples, and tomatoes.

These vending machines are increasingly prevalent and a convenient way for people to grab a healthy snack on the go.

Quirky Souvenirs

Japanese vending machines are also known for their quirky souvenirs.

You can find everything from keychains and toys to mini umbrellas and face masks. These vending machines are a great way to pick up a unique souvenir to take home.

The King’s Treasure Box vending machine is a popular mystery vending machine in Tokyo:

Alcoholic Beverages

In Japan, you can find vending machines that sell alcoholic beverages such as beer and sake.

These vending machines are typically located outside of convenience stores and are a convenient way to grab a drink on the go.

Ice Cream

Japanese vending machines also offer a wide variety of ice cream flavors. From matcha to black sesame, there’s a flavor for everyone. 


There are several Tokyo vending machines that sell a variety of insects as crunchy protein-rich snacks, including unsettlingly large whole rhino beetles. Take a look: 

Rounding up

Overall, vending machines have become an integral part of Japanese culture, and their widespread use has shaped contemporary Japanese society.

Japanese vending machines offer a unique and exciting experience for anyone visiting Japan. Whether you’re looking for a hot meal, a healthy snack, or a quirky souvenir, you can buy just about anything from a Japanese vending machine!

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