Vending Machines in Japan

If you have traveled to Japan, you have surely noticed that there are vending machines….quite frankly, everywhere. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, there are over 5.5 million vending machines throughout the whole country, with sales reaching nearly 6.95 trillion yen, or about $5.5 billion USD.

I’d like to share with you the vending machines we saw on our recent trip to Tokyo!


First and foremost, Japan offers what I will call the standard vending machine. This machine serves cold beverages, like water, soda and sports drinks.  Most of them have this glowy (LED) appeal to them. In case you’re wondering, the cheapest price I saw for a normal-sized bottle of water from a vending machine was 120 yen, or nearly a buck. These were priced at 160 yen and can be found in the Imperial Palace East Gardens.

Standard vending machine

Standard vending machine

Not far-fetched from our standard vending machine is the coffee vending machine! I wish I liked coffee just so I could use this. So many options from which to choose…

Need caffeine?

Need caffeine?

Still keeping in the liquid family, we have one of my favorite vending machines, the beer vending machine! We found this machine in what I nicknamed the “patio of sin.” Situated between proper shops and restaurants on a popular street in Marunouchi, was a little covered space where people could smoke or grab a beer from this machine. What’s nice, actually, is that there are many streets in Tokyo where you are not allowed to smoke, so they provide sectioned-off areas for those who don’t wish to abstain. We saw the beer vending machine from the street and had to peek in! Yes, Kevin bought one!

On a side-note, they have cigarette vending machines, too. I think I forgot to photograph that. It must be the honor policy or something because I’m pretty sure one’s age is not checked. This would never fly at home.

Asahi  ftw!

Asahi ftw!

Moving on from liquid and onto food now. What better than an ice-cream vending machine?! These were all over the subway stations. I never got one but they were sure tempting!

A cool treat on a hot day!

A cool treat on a hot day!

And what would Asia be without ramen? Here’s a cup o’ noodle vending machine, but it doesn’t just have the old-fashioned cup o’ noodle. Here, you can also choose from curry and seafood flavors! You can relive your college dorm diet days with a flavorful twist!

Hot water sold separately?

Hot water sold separately?

Next, for food, we were able to order our delicious soba noodle lunch in Akihabara out of a vending machine. “Lunch from a vending machine?” you ask. Nearly.

You see, in Japan it is common to order and pay for your food via the vending machine. Insert your money, select which meal you want, and out pops…a ticket that you take to the counter so the kitchen knows what to prepare for you. We couldn’t read anything, but luckily there were photos posted with prices on the side and we were able to successfully match the price on the machine and enjoy our delicious soba/tempura lunch.

Lunch, anyone?

Lunch, anyone?

At last we migrate to truly non-edible vending machines. The first: a newspaper vending machine! How convenient. Seen in the subway station.

Paper! Paper! Get your paper!

Paper! Paper! Get your paper!

And finally, the last vending machine I am sharing with you today, is what I believe to be a porn vending machine. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, please, but unless you’re paying for the actual girls in the photos….

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That’s it for the vending machines we saw! There’s a bunch of other quirky ones all around Japan, for example, ones that sell floral arrangements, daily sundries, neckties, etc.

If you’ve been to Japan, what’s the craziest vending machine you’ve seen?

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