Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Japanese Vending Machines

I'm sure you've all heard tales about the vending machines in Japan, how they sell everything from beer on street corners to lady's underwear. My experience with vending machines is so-so, they're a pretty common sight on the streets. Before you ask, I can't confirm or deny these mythical panty machines. I don't doubt they exist/ed somewhere in the country, but I can't personally claim to have seen one.

Vending machines are standard for drinks, snacks, and cigarettes.

Beer machines are so-so common, I've seen a number of them. Usually they're near the cigarette machines, so you can pick your poison.

Drink machines depensed cans/bottles that were often heated or cooled. They're probably the most common kind of vending machine. It was from one of these machines at the JR station in Shibukawa, Gunma that I had my first taste of Iced Cocoa (Japan's version of chocolate milk: cold cocoa.)

From what I recall, snack machines are less common. In Fukuoka (on Kyuushuu) we had a Sweet 16 Ice Cream vending machine about two blocks from our training apartments. You put in money and picked between various flavors of ice cream or sherbet. I think there may have been a M&M vending machine in Gyoda, Saitama. Or it was just a machine with M&M characters on it.

Depending on your age and location, cigarette vending machines may be an exotic idea. The last time I saw a working cigarette machine in North America was sometime in the late 80s.

Japan doesn't have the same anti-smoking campaigns that we have here in North America. Cigarettes are still very cool and you can smoke just about anywhere. Imagine the accessibility. Cigarettes in Japan are cheap like borsch—perhaps a better analogy is cheap like onigiri. They're a dime a dozen—kind of like Starbucks (or just coffee shops in general) in Vancouver. You can't throw a rock without hitting one.

As for weird vending machines, I haven't had much luck. Maybe I just wasn't in the right areas. Near the school in Gyoda there was a machine that sold flowers. Fresh arrangements and bouquets were placed in it daily.

The best weird vending machine story isn't so much about the machine's contents as the brand if of the contents. In Fukuoka, during our training we would pass by this machine on the way to the school that sold sundries.

At least one of these items was a package of condoms. The package had those figures you see on signs and bathrooms. This one was a mom, a dad and a couple kids. The brand of the condoms: Happy Family.

That's right: Happy Family Condoms.

1 comment:

KT said...

Ahhhh, Japan. Hurrah for it and it's inapropriate english usage.

On the cigarette thing, they're not common outside here, but quite a lot of pubs or nightclubs will have cig machines. I guess they don't put them outside because they's get smashed open and the contents stolen.

The notion of a flower vending machine ammuses me for some reason.