VENDING MACHINES. WHO doesn’t love them? And the undisputed world champion of the vending machine is Japan, where you can buy pretty much anything with the drop of a coin or the swipe of a cellphone. But whilst you can buy anything from iPods to marijuana to umbrellas, can you actually survive on the mean streets of Tokyo without once buying sustenance from another human being?
That’s what reporter Tom Edwards wanted to find out, so he set out with two friends to spend 24 hours buying anything they needed from vending machines.
What won’t surprise you is that the challenge wasnt’ really a challenge. If you want something in Japan, you can get it from a vending machine. What is interesting is the breadth of choice, and some of the gimmicks. Sure, you can buy cheesecake, ice-cream, miso soup and the horrifying-sounding cheese curry, but you can also buy gold (real gold) and even a hotel room for the night.
My favorite machine, though, is one of the first that Tom and his team encountered. It sells beverages, but it uses a camera to take a picture of you, combines this with temperature, your perceived age and even the time of day to suggest a drink for you. Tom and his friends decide to mess with it by wearing a hockey mask and a false beard.
Perhaps the best part of this entire escapade is a little bit of trivia Tom learned from Takashi Kurosaki, the boss of the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association. He explains that vending machines in Japan took of in 1967. This was when expensive silver ¥100 coins were replaced with copper ¥100 coins. This meant there were a lot more ¥100 coins around, and vending machines switched to allowing ¥100 coins instead of requiring multiple ¥10 coins. This made them a lot more convenient.
Lastly, there was one essential thing Tom and team couldn’t find in a machine. Beer. This final point surely marks the whole endeavor as a failure.