Blog - Vending in Japan

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Vending in Japan

The Japanese are famous for their high tech culture – always 2 steps ahead of the rest of the world and leading the way on the forefront of technology. A lesser known outcome of this is the effect this has had on their vending industry.

Extraordinarily, it is said that in Japan there is a vending machine population of around 1 to every 20 people! Though perhaps more surprising is the remarkably low rates of vandalism and damage done to the machines.

This attitude, combined with restricted city space and a general preference towards pedestrian-friendly transport has enabled them endless vending possibilities. A quick search on YouTube for vending in Japan will bring a whole host of results, most demonstrating the weird and wonderful vending contraptions to have sprung from this country in recent years.

Giant machines loom over neon lit urban streets – advanced to a level they can be activated even by mobile phone. But should your battery be dead, however, you need not worry as a touch screen alternative is a far from uncommon sight.

Aside from the long rows of machines stretching across the roads of Japan, there are entire shops devoted wholly to vending machines. They fill the walls and reach the ceilings, vending society the essential to the absurd.

To be expected, most vending machines are filled with a typical stock of drinks, snacks, food and other such consumables, but occasionally there are vending machines to be found dispensing unusual items such as alcohol, fried food, iPods, plants and even underwear!

When it comes to vending products such as liquor and tobacco, the Japanese have recently incorporated a novel system in an attempt to reduce accessibility for underage people. A ‘smart-card’ named Taspo (formerly known as ‘Tobacco Card’) needs to be waved in front of a sensor during the transaction to enable vending, helping to restrict the purchase to adults only.

If other countries are to follow suit, it could be a very exciting time for vending worldwide. It seems a likely prospect too, as there are a number of other countries such as the UK, USA, Germany and Australia which are beginning to employ innovative ideas, and colossal outdoor vending machines.

As culture and society change, the rules of the vending world change with it. The boundaries of vending are being pushed ever further – adapting to the continually evolving needs of the consumer. There is no doubt it will be interesting to see what the future will bring. Things have come a very long way for vending in a very short time.

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