Thursday, September 15, 2011
Japanese Vending Machines
First-time visitors to Japan are usually struck by the ubiquitousness and variety of vending machines. They seem to be everywhere. In an urban area, it feels as if you are never more than a few yards from one. My admittedly limited impression is that the vast majority of machines are vending drinks: hot and cold coffee; soft drinks (Coke, Fanta, Calpis); energy drinks; water, and beer. But I have also seen machines vending bags of rice, batteries, ice cream, candy and snacks.
Innovative Japanese vending machine manufacturers have introduced machines that respond to your cell phone. No cash to buy an icy brew for the ride home? Just swipe your mobile, make your choice, and the machine adds the charge to your phone bill.
Because competition is so great (although not price competition; prices seem standard across categories and markets), marketers advertise on their machines. A few years ago, I took this picture of Tommy Lee Jones who was promoting Boss brand canned coffee. The line of coffees—including espresso, coffee mocha, and black—are all vended hot. The line of blue buttons at the top of the picture are for cold drinks. One machine, two temperatures.
A final note: While I have sampled probably a bare fraction of the goods available from Japanese vending machines, I have never had a bad experience. I think the coffee is great, and I even like the soft drink Pocari Sweat.