KCP Student Brody Stejskal on Japanese Vending Machines

At my college back home, one of my favorite treats after a hard day of studying is a quick stop over to my college library’s vending machine. Tucked away in a little corner are three machines: a typical snack vending machine, a soda vending machine, and even a fancy coffee vending machine which will provide a cup and fill it with coffee before your very eyes. These machines, however, were nothing special. When I came to Japan, I was completely amazed at the wide variety and complexity of these machines. Now that I have been living in Japan for a couple of months, I cannot imagine going back to my college vending machines to buy a bag of chips. Here are some of my favorites.

There is 1 vending machine for every 20th person in Japan. That’s 5 million vending machines!

As I was walking to class one morning, I spotted a rather large vending machine on the side of the street that appeared to be selling some sort of food. As I was equal parts curious and hungry, I decided to investigate. To my delight, it turned out to be a snack vending machine! Specifically, it was a noodle vending machine! Before me lay roughly a dozen options, ranging from udon noodles to ramen. I hurriedly pulled out a spare bill from my pocket and inserted it, selected a ramen option. Less than a minute later, I was walking down the street, happily slurping noodles to my class.

Another day, I was walking back home after exploring Tokyo when I got caught in a sudden rainstorm. I had forgotten to check the weather forecast as I was leaving this morning, so I did not think to pack an umbrella. Just as I was about to walk into a store to try and wait out the rain, another vending machine caught my eye. This time, it was an umbrella vending machine! I inserted some money, and soon I found myself in possession of an umbrella!

Never worry about hitting the wrong number. The red button resets and the blue confirms your order. If your snack doesn’t come out, there are sensors to give your money back.

Finally, another fascinating vending machine I’ve encountered here was a book vending machine. I am something of a bibliophile, and I have found that reading books that interest me have greatly enriched my understanding of Japanese. Through these vending machines, I have been able to purchase everything from newspapers to comic books to fun novels. Their ubiquity have made it almost impossible for me to not expand my knowledge of Japanese through a day-to-day basis.

A snack on every corner for an affordable price. Sometimes the snacks are cheaper than in store prices.

Vending machines are a pretty common sight, even back home in America. However, the wide variety of options and the creativity of some of these machines here in Japan leave much to be desired for the plain chip dispensers back home. While I doubt that I will find a ramen vending machine back home, every time I see one at my school, the mall, or just down the street, I will be reminded of my trip to Japan and their wonderful vending machines.

Read Brody’s tips on how to avoid burnout when learning Japanese.