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  • Writer's pictureHusky & Onigunsô

Myths and truths of Japanese vending machines - Part 3

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

The dark sides of the Japanese vending machine-business

Japanese vending machines

Part one and two in this blog series introduced the history of Japanese vending machines, and then told the story of the used panty vending machines.

Part 3: The dark sides of the Japanese vending machine-business

Japanese vending machines are still criticized on some scale, mainly for providing easy accessible alcohol to minors. Alcohol-vendors are not particularly widespread, and they do require identification, but teenagers still find ways to exploit the system.

Teens prowling for alcohol is common around the globe, however, and far from the most concerning issue about Japanese vending machines.

Another, and far more troubling issue is the environmental footprint left by more than 5 million automated servants, many of which are plugged in 24/7. I have not done the math, but the power surge required, sounds like it must be equal to that of a small country.

Thanks to electricity-saving innovations, the energy consumption of vending machines was cut down to half between 1990-2005. The official goal was to cut it another 35 percent by 2012. Whether it succeeded or not, I could not find confirmed anywhere online …

Finally - just to mention an ongoing YouTube-craze - there is a somewhat strange corner in Akihabara, where a bunch of vending machines have caused a stir. For the most part, the atmosphere is more disconcerting than the content of the machines.

Between shady shacks, in narrow alleyways, you will find posters promising mutilation for vandalism, some strangely hidden vendors, and the infamous mystery box machine. So far the strangest things to come out of this vending machine corner, appears to be dung beetles and anime-themed bread-in-a-can.

Japanese corn soup vending machine
Corn soup in a can

The Japanese vending machines of tomorrow

Thinking outside the box, but still inside the vending machines, these automated helpers might actually become the heroes of tomorrow. There already exist machines selling emergency kits. Not just for altitude-queasy hikers on Mount Fuji, but for people in distress during disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis or other natural terrors.

Many Japanese vending machines are already fitted with a function that able them to give out free drinks during catastrophic events. This already proved helpful when a big earthquake hit Niigata in 2004. At the time, local vending machines provided free drinks for disaster victims. Other machines are fitted with security cameras or emergency defibrillators.

Many vendors also come with LCD screens, which in some cases provide information about the nearest safe place or shelter during extreme weather conditions. These LCD-screens also serve as bulletin boards in certain communities, serving useful information about local happenings to close-by residents.

Japanese vending machines

Japanese vending machines in a nutshell

On the surface, Japanese vending machines are fun. Insects in a can are just as random as G-string-vending is bizarre. Under the surface there might be some questionable moral issues, concerning certain practices of vending machines. On the other hand, some nifty innovations might speak to the contrary, and argue that the upkeep of automated clerks is indeed moral.

No matter what anyone might think, one thing is certain, Japanese people love their traditions. And the traditions of the Japanese vending machines will probably outlive us all. The automated vendors have become an integral part of Japanese society. There are no signs indicating that they will be unemployed in the foreseeable future.


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