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  • Writer's pictureHusky & Onigunsô

Myths and truths of Japanese vending machines - Part 2

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

A perversion in the force - Used panty vending machines

Japanese dolls - Atomic boy

Part one of this blog series introduces the history of Japanese vending machines.

Part 2: A Perversion in the force - Used panty vending machines

Before the Internet, rumors took longer to spread, but rumors also took hold on a whole other level. Who has not heard the story about vending machines selling women’s used underwear? So famous did this «rumor» become, that today you will find novelty machines selling factory made «used underwear» in Tokyo.

The economic boom in Japan made for extreme excess. At times, Japanese pop culture and fashion could be described as gasoline on the fire of 1980s flamboyance. That some kinky company saw it fit to make a perverted vending machine is perhaps not so far fetched?

«It caused uproar among concerned parents of panty-selling teenagers»

According to reasonably reliable sources (listed below), said kinky machine did see the light of day, but not until the early 90s. At the time, it caused uproar among concerned parents of panty-selling teenagers. Ten years later, Tokyo government passed a regulation that criminalized the trade of used underwear from underage individuals.

This government action might substantiate the myth of the panty-vending machine. Or, it might just be the case that a novelty item started the rumor in the first place. We might never know. At least the old chicken or egg-question got an updated twist for future generations: What came first, rumor of dirty panty-machines, or novelty panties?

Japanese vending machines

Japanese vending machines of today

In our day and age, Japanese vending machines have become a part of daily life in Japan. On overheated summer days, you can count on the nearest vendor to re-supply your Pocari Sweat-tank. On busy mornings the automated clerks are always there, to serve you a quick coffee on the go. And should you feel adventurous, you can always find some limited and new flavors for your tastebuds.

In rural areas, or desolate streets, the vending machines might be far apart, but in central areas they are as dependable as the rising sun. And since most populated areas in Japan, are as crowded as any central area in my own country of Norway, by «central area» in this context, I mean everywhere.

Train stations, subways, airports, taxi stops, shopping centers, amusement parks, parking lots, playgrounds and parks are never without a vending machine. Also on the way to the top of Mount Fuji, you can find vending machines selling soft drinks and small oxygen tanks, for those who struggle with thin air.

Soup stock vending machine in Tokyo
Soup stock vending machine in Tokyo

In short, these automated clerks have become as reliable as any human substitute. They are always there to lend a helping hand. Umbrella-vendors will help you when rainfall strikes. Soup stock-vendors are available, when you forgot to pick up some «dashi» at the super market. When in need, Japanese vending machines are ready to serve.

Part three in this blog series dives into the moral aspect of keeping Japanese vending machines on the streets of Japan.


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