V is for 自販機

V is for jihanki, or the Japanese word for vending machine. Summers in Kyoto are quite hot, and winters are frigid. When you’re outside trying to get from place to the next, staying hydrated and warm is no easy feat. It can seem hard to justify a cafe visit or stop-in at a supermarket for a single drink. However, that doesn’t stop the locals from keeping the whistles wet. Kyoto has thousands upon thousands, maybe even a million, vending machines at their disposal.

Vending machines carry everything you can think of. Water, soda, juices, coffee (hot or cold). It can even make you mochas and cappuccinos if you’re late for work. Some machines sell soup in a can, or whole fruit, or wrapped pastries. You can even find cigarette and liquor vending machines (which won’t activate unless you swipe a valid ID card), or try Japan’s unique flavors, like “pancake au lait” or “rare cheese orange juice”. I don’t recommend the latter!

The convenience of having a vending machine always nearby has been a blessing; I never have to carry a backpack or more than my camera and my wallet. It’s going to take some getting used to, not having that anymore!

Images hosted on Flickr. 

Ichijoji 2-22-1584

https://flic.kr/p/r2uXaX

Ichijoji 2-22-15140

Ichijoji 2-22-15141

https://flic.kr/p/pP8Vww

https://flic.kr/p/pwz2F4

https://flic.kr/p/oAr6XG

44 thoughts on “V is for 自販機

  1. I realised I was starting to get used to Japan when I visited the local city office, and was surprised when I had to walk more than 20 metres to find a vending machine that stocked the drink I was looking for. Oh, the hardship of life in rural Japan…

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  2. I don’t think there were that many vending machines when we were there many years ago, but this made me think How Japanese! Thanks for this interesting aspect of day to day living.

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    1. There are definitely more in the more recent years. It’s a convenience people can’t do without anymore!

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  3. I only spent two weeks in Japan but got addicted to Boss coffee drinks (particularly one called ‘Silky Drip’). Knowing no Japanese at all I loved taking a lucky dip, picking a drink simply because of the packaging, with no idea what you were going to get. And even then, not being entirely sure what it was when you were drinking it.

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  4. I love the concept, but the environmentalist in me cringes at all that waste – although I appreciate it’s not any worse than the huge banks of coolers that line every convenience store and gas station here.

    The convenience sounds amazing – liquor dispensing machines? Oh my – that would be a huge cultural shock for those of us from prissy Ontario with its puritanical liquor laws!!

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    1. Yeah, Japan definitely has a problem with waste. Unneeded packaging, even though they boast a 100% plastic bottle recycle rate.

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  5. Whenever I visit a new place I always go to the local supermarket. I find it fascinating to see the types of products. Love this post ! The pics are as intriguing as the “Natural” ones.

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    1. I was really excited about this post because I think it’s sort of uniquely “Japan”. I should try to get some photos of the interiors of Japanese markets! Though, in that respect, the U.S. is definitely superior in selection. Japan is pretty strict about the only selling things in season (which is also good). Makes you realize how spoiled we are by produce in the West!

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  6. I was always surprised by how you could find one anywhere. Like, “Oh, man! This hike deep in the woods is making me thirsty–oh, look! A vending machine!”

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    1. Yeah! Exactly that, haha. I always wonder how they stock those ones deep in the mountains or on an incline. Mountain scooters? Hopefully not by hand!

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    1. Yes, there is a serious issue with over packaging in Japan, but, somehow, they still have a 100% plastic bottle recycling rate.

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    1. I remember vending machines in America being for candy or soda. Funnily enough, Japan doesn’t really have candy machines. But I have seen pastry machines, fruit from the field right behind it (literally), and nutrition bar machines.

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    1. The worst thing I ever tried was the orange rare cheese drink. Imagine cream cheese, but no sweet, and sour. Plus orange. Because everyone knows you should mix dairy and citrus for fun times.

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    1. Definitely, especially in the oppressively hot and humid summers. Seniors really do die from heat exhaustion in some places, so the vending machines are almost a public service!

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  7. Huh. Pastry wrapped in plastic encased in a machine that’s been there for how long? That’s a head scratcher. I do think it’s a fantastic idea to have fresh fruit available in vending machines though. WISH THEY’D DO THAT HERE IN SCHOOLS!
    And I also think that whole liquor vending machine is an eyebrow raisingly interesting one. Culture shock will require some adjustment period. You might want to carry your own hip flask.

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    1. I don’t drink, so I’ll probably be okay, haha. But! Vending machines are refilled daily by the people who own them (sometimes it’s even just a person in the neighborhood). It’s quite efficient and amusing. 🙂 also, everything is wrapped in plastic here. EVERYTHING.

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  8. Some dude here in the states invented sandwiches in a can for vending machines. Amazingly, they didn’t go over. We’re pretty confined to vending machines being for sodas (or soda-like) only.

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  9. That looks incredibly convenient.

    I’m surprised that everyone else is surprised about the coffee vending machines though… Surely they have those elsewhere in the US besides Alabama? They’re not super-duper common, but I’ve seen them in places like hospital waiting rooms, offices, etc.

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    1. I’ve seen them on college campuses, and hospitals, yes. It’s just funny to me that you can get them in cans (hot) here. I believe in the U.S. it’s still paper cups?

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  10. These look so cool! We recently watched a show set in 1950s New York, and there was an “automat” featured … like a diner-sized vending machine. We thought it was super cool and daydreamed of creating a modern-day version. Until your post and the show we watched, I’d always been annoyed by vending machines. I will look at them with more respect now.

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  11. I can’t remember the last time I bought anything from a vending machine. Of course the ones here only carry boring processed foods that are bad for you! If I had that much variety, I might consider it. Not that orange cheese thing, though! 🙂

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