Japanese Vending Machines

Japanese Vending Machines 1

If there’s one thing the Japanese know how to do well, it’s convenience (and if there’s two things, it’s convenience and customer service), and there’s nothing more convenient than vending machines every hundred metres, even out here in a broad empty promenade running down the middle of a large spacious island built out of landfill in Tokyo Bay.

Don’t be fooled by the Coca-Cola signs. If you look closely, you’ll see that only one of the 72 drink selections is a can of Coke. The rest are almost all unique to Japan, and as often as not unique to each machine. The variety on offer is truly amazing, especially compared to a country where the soft-drink options consist of (i) Irn-Bru and (ii) Other.

This makes vending machines the cheapest way (and the most convenient) to sample the daunting variety on offer to the tourist in Japan. It’s Orientalism in a can, a swig of Otherness for only ¥120—unless you’re in a tourist trap where they’ve jacked the price up to ¥150. And there’s no awkward pauses at the checkout while you try to remember the Japanese for “Please may I have that can of NOBI KING. That’s right, the one with the big cartoon face sticking its tongue out.”

May 2006

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