Vending Machine Level: EXPERT
Vending Machines are literally everywhere in Japan, there is even machines on the top of Mount Fuji at the summit post-office! For some great Tips on vending machines, and some funny videos with Tommy Lee Jones, read on:
RED price tags mean that the product is hot.
BLUE price tags mean that it is cold.
If you are paying cash, insert cash first and then make your selection.
If you are paying by electronic money, make your selection, then hold your phone or e-money pass against the reader to complete the transaction.
Shake your can before drinking it! Hot drinks are warmed by a large steel bar that the cans sit on, contents at the bottom are greatly warmer than the top!
If you find yourself in post-apocolyptic Japan, most vending machines have a sticker covering a switch which turns the machine into free dispense mode, allowing you to take bottled water in case of emergencies.
Be warned, just because something looks like a can of coffee, doesn’t mean that it is! Many a customer has dropped their cash into a machine, expecting a soul warming tea or coffee, only to claim a wonderful suprise can of clam soup or cheese soup.
Vending Machine roulette is a great game to play!
Vending machines are available over the entire country. There is approximately 1 vending machine per every 23 people, according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.
This is made up of around 2.2 million Softdrink machines, 127,000 milk and yoghurt machines, 23,000 beer and sake machines and 155,000 coffee vending machines! The remaining machines are made up of Ice-cream, Cigarette and fried food dispensing machines, coming to a total over around 4.5 million units.
The really insane number is the income generated, which is estimated at over 60 billion yen per year!
Vending machines are something of a national obsession, with limited edition flavours and colours/shapes of bottles being released for only a short time. Some people are intrigued by the asethic in general and there are even galleries dedicated to Vending machines in Rural Japan. See Eji Ohashi’s works here: https://www.sapporo-creation.com/shine
BOSS Coffee is probably the brand you will notice on your travels here, and has been represented by Tommy Lee Jones as the brand ambassador since the mid-90’s. His character is ‘Alien Jones’
I recommend watching the commericals here with english subtitles, as they are quite funny and show Japanese culture poking fun at itself.
If you are feeling like a coffee which you dont need to shake before drinking, why not check out our guide to Cafe Apres!, the best spots to get a coffee on the mountain.