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Vending Machine Madness

Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, like they're taking over the country, their fluorescent light giving side streets an eerie glow as they sit quietly outside shops throughout the night. With Japan's very low crime and vandalism rates they're unmolested as they dispense everything from burgers to used schoolgirls underwear 24 hours a day.

According to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association there's one machine for every 23 people in the country. People use them as well, often even preferring them to queuing in a shop as, unlike many vending machines in the western world, they simply do work. They accept notes as well as coins, always give change, and the whole time I was in Japan they never once spat out one of my coins or refused to take a banknote. Anyone who's tried repeatedly to feed a dollar bill into an American vending machine only to have it spat back out understands how psychotically maddening that can be.

Every floor of the Tokyo hotel I was staying in had several machines, or jidoohanbaiki, dispensing beer, soft drinks, toothbrushes, and access cards for the pay-tv channels. Apparently, there's even one on the remote summit of Mount Fuji. Many cheap restaurants have vending machines installed. The first time I walked into one of these and sat down the staff said something to me and pointed to the door. It took some time before I realised that they weren't asking me to leave but were pointing to the vending machine at the entrance. There are photographs of all the dishes available and you simply make your choice, put your money into the machine, and it gives you a ticket which you hand to the restaurant staff. Your meal is freshly prepared and none of the staff have to deal with the cash.

Vending machines really began to appear in Japan for the 1964 olympics when large numbers of people needed to be provided with goods in spite of a shortage of staff and space. Since then they've flourished into selling such things as noodles, pornography, vegetables, clothing, books, fresh flowers... the list goes on. Here's a couple of links to a selection of Japanese vending machines...

Vending machines of Japan photos
More wierd vending machines

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