Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vending Machines in Japan

"You're going to Japan? Did you know they have vending machines that sell used schoolgirl's underwear there? It's a crazy place!!!"

I heard this often before (and even after) coming to Japan. Yet, I've never seen or heard of such a thing. Vending machines are ubiquitous here due to the high population, but the majority sell juice, followed by cigs and food. Though supposed urban-legends busters Snopes claim the story is true (based on a '93 article in the Economist), and this page claims to have a pic of one (scroll about halfway down), the legend, such as it is, is debunked here. Wikipedia also claims the story to be true but lacks any verification. Though revered as an authority, Snopes is definitely not infallible; it's funny how they print the date of the Economist article but use the present tense for the claim, based only on unidentified "numerous readers in Japan". A more interesting question is why so many people wish for this fantasy to be a reality. I will write about this later.

Vending machines here do stock an assortment of uncommon items. I've seen some selling milk (doesn't it have to be changed quite often?), fresh shirts (for salarymen that have missed the last train and stay out all night), quite a few sell tickets (for food, queues, etc.) and of course, beer and sake. I was looking forward to using the latter, as my favorite beer is Sapporo and there's something fun about vending machines. I was happy to find one in front of my apartment, but it unfortunately stocks only juice. Investigation revealed that, recently, alchol-vending machines are available only in front of sake shops. This doesn't make much sense to me: given that the prices are pretty much the same, doesn't it seem redundant to have a machine selling beer in front of a store selling beer? Further, they shut off at 11 pm. It's probably for the best anyway, given drinking habits here (I'll write about this later as well).

Many people aren't aware that quite a few celebrities (such as Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford) come to Japan and make Japan-only adverts. For example, here's Tommy Lee Jones hawking "Boss" brand coffee drinks on a vending machine.

Here's another brand of coffee. Can you think of a celebrity that might make a good sponsor for this?

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Anonymous said...

Used panty vending machines are a truth! There was one a few blocks from the station in Akita City until 2004 or so, when it was removed. The panties were in boxes, with the picture of the 'wearer' on the front. And if this existed in the wops, surely there were machines in more metropolitan areas of Japan.

bonsai-superstar said...

Thank you for your oddly-worded comment.

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I could have taken your word for it. However, you're telling us that in Japan, famous for its cell phone culture (, there isn't just _one_ picture of these supposedly ubiquitous machines? If more "surely" existed, images would surely be found on the internet? If you can produce a pic, please send it to me and I will post it here with a retraction or at least an amendment to the original article.

P.S. - "The wops..." - do you mean "the sticks"? I am familiar with the term "wops" only as a derogatory word for Italians.