Japan is a nation of vending machines – 5.2 million of them! You find them everywhere, selling all sorts of products. And many vending machines do much more than simply sell things. There are ultra-energy-efficient vending machines, vending machines with lifesaving equipment, vending machines that give you the option to donate your change to charity, and vending machines that can evaluate a customer’s age and gender in order to recommend specific drinks. Japan pioneered vending machines that could dispense hot drinks in cans. The inspiration behind their development might surprise you. Retro, low-tech vending machines still exist, and they have ardent fans. One man has made 150 short documentaries about these old machines that receive hundreds of thousands of views online.
On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is vending machines. We’ll examine the unique history of how they developed in Japan, as well as their latest cutting-edge features.