If there is one thing that pops into everyone’s mind when thinking of Japan, it’s Manga-styled schoolgirls wielding katanas. If there is a second thing, it is the fact that the nation is all but completely obsessed with vending machines. If you didn’t know this, then know it now. There are around 5 million vending machines in Japan, by far the highest density in the world. In fact, there is roughly 1 vending machine in the country for every 23 people!
To set the picture more clearly, there is virtually nowhere you can go without seeing a vending machine, with many cropping up in obscure, unexpected places. Down alleyways, in residential neighbourhoods, and even smack in the middle of nowhere at countryside picnic locations. It sort of gives the impression that they are reproducing by themselves, and that you might be temporarily distracted, only to look up and realise one has appeared by your side.
But seriously, why are there so many vending machines in the Land of the Rising Sun?
A Safe Space for Vending
The question was posed to a Tokyo based vending machine company, Hachiyoh, and they gave a few very significant answers, most of which relate to local culture. The first thing that they pointed out is that, above all else, Japan is a very safe country. Even if left in vulnerable, isolated locations, the machines are rarely broken into, vandalised, or tipped over. Thus, they are the perfect retailer as they are easily accessible, always open and don’t require any staff.
Be that as it may, there is still something very surreal about the idea of coming upon a brilliantly lit up soda dispenser in the middle of a park, out in the woods. In Japan though, this is the norm.
Japan is notorious for having long work hours, demanding jobs and very dedicated residents. This means that there is often little time on workdays to pop into a convenience store. Hence, in areas like Tokyo specifically, having quick access to food and soda dispensers is massively appreciated.
On average, almost every block in Tokyo has at least one vending machine, if not more. Some even have enormous rows of a dozens, each offering a wide variety of products. This means that residents don’t even have to go very far out of their way to do some shopping, and much like the convenience that online slots have to offer; these machines are open around the clock ad provide an instant and satisfying experience.
Everyone Can Own One
Not widely known is that in Japan, just about anyone can own and install a vending machine of their own. Upon a permit being granted, any citizen can have a dispenser of their choice set up, and rake in the profits. It is a common side job, and many make a great amount of money in this fashion.
Of course, competition is fierce, and the best, most lucrative spots have long ago been taken. These prime spots can command steep prices, given that it is almost like printing money for minimal effort.
Very Affordable Products
Last, but perhaps most important; products offered are known for being extremely affordable. A few yen will get a cup of coffee, soda, juice, green tea, snack, or whatever else might be on offer. Once again, since competition is so rife, owners are forced to keep their prices as low as possible, at least if they want to see returns.
This is especially interesting, since Japan is known to be an expensive country in almost all regards. Hit up your local coffee dispenser, though, and you’ll be stunned at how affordable it is. Likewise, keep in mind that there are virtually no queues to deal with, and that most dispensers work electronically, meaning that you need not even carry cash.
So, it turns out the Japanese passion for vending machines is warranted, and the fact that they crop up just about everywhere is now so much easier to understand!