Japan has mastered the art of convenience. From the high tech robots that have been put to work across the country, down to the more conventional machines, the country is lightyears ahead in making everyday tasks automated and easy. They’re so in love with it that there are around 5.52 million vending machines across Japan, offering anything from soft drinks to sex toys, to photos of total strangers – for no real reason at all. For a nation that works so hard it’s no surprise they enjoy convenience and that means you can find a jidōhanbaiki on every corner, in every town, available every hour of every day.
With no overheads like rent or paying cashiers, it’s big business, too – vending machines in Japan bring in approximately $60 billion per year. Plus, the Japanese always carry cash, so popping a few yen into a slot is a simple way to get whatever you want, whenever you want it.
And we really mean ‘whatever’ you want…but could live your entire life – just from these convenient, coin-operated machines?
Let’s find out…
Don’t worry there’s a vending machine for that.
(A short story based on the vending machines you can find throughout Japan).
It’s 8am and you’re off to the office so need a little pick me up. You grab a coffee from a vending machine (nothing unusual about that), but oops, you’ve split some coffee on your tie – don’t fret – there’s a vending machine on the corner where you can buy a new one for just a few yen. It’s a commuter rat race’s dream.
Or how about this: it starts to rain and you’ve forgotten your coat. Lucky for you, there’s a freestanding machine right here that will dispense one instantly, AND they come in a range of patterns and colours – so you can buy one that matches that new tie. Result!
After a few hours beavering away in the office, it’s lunch time. Nip to the vending machine and out pops some canned oden – a Japanese one-pot dish consisting of ingredients like boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, and fishcakes all inside a light, soy-flavoured dashi broth. But you need some bread to mop up the soup – no worries – there’s canned bread too. We can’t comment on the taste, but we’d guess it’s not exactly bakery fresh…
After work, you’re heading to a restaurant to celebrate your daughter’s birthday, but you don’t have a change of clothes… How about a fresh canned T-Shirt? No need to queue, just choose your size and colour and away you go!
Ah, but there’s just one thing playing on your mind and you can’t remember what… YOU’VE FORGOTTEN YOUR DAUGHTERS PRESENT! You remember that she’s been wanting a new puppy for ages. No problem. There’s a vending machine that sells puppies. Yes, you read that right. All individually priced, and some in clear boxes with a door on the front, ready for you to take to a new home.
As you’re cuddling the new furry family companion you’ve just purchased with the touch of a button (still not sure where the RSPCA stands on that), you notice it’s not dressed up to go to the restaurant! That just won’t do! Phew, you spot a machine that dishes out doggy wigs! It may now look like Elton John having a midlife crisis, but it’s kinda cute, in a Tina Turner kinda way.
Finally, you make it to the restaurant, and your daughter is delighted with her new pet (though you do realise that the wig might have been a step too far). Looking around the table at your family you wonder, what’s Ojisan wearing? Has he been to the barbers? You look back at your furry friend, then back to Ojisan, and realise he’s been shopping at the doggy wig vending machine too….
Whatever you need – smartphones, toilet paper, lettuce – there’s a vending machine out there for you.