One thing that basically every tourist to Japan immediately notices is the large number of vending machines. They’re at every station, in every building, and you’ll practically stumble upon a vending machine no matter where you’re going, even in the countryside.
There are genuine reasons for the abundance of these vending machines. Live Japan asked Hachiyoh, a Tokyo-based company responsible for vending machine maintenance: why are there so many in Japan? Here are the answers
1) Because Japan is safe!
There is very little vandalism in Japan, so even if a vending machine is installed in a public space such as a park or on the sidewalk, it rarely gets broken.
2) Because busy people love the convenience!
Japan is (in)famous for its long work hours and a lot of working Tokyoites are used to doing plenty of overtime. The result of that is less time, of course, and sometimes, people are even too busy to hit up the nearest convenience store. Then, there’s nothing more convenient than grabbing a quick and tasty drink from a vending machine on the way!
3) Because everyone can become a vending machine owner!
This reason isn’t widely known but basically, each and everyone can apply to set up their own vending machine. After the application is approved by the management company, you’ll pay an installation fee of ten thousands of yen (a couple of thousand dollars). If the spot you chose for your vending machine is good, however, it’s a lucrative business and quite a few people have done this as a kind of side job. As of 2017, all vending machine slots in Japan are taken.
4) Because the maintenance is flawless!
Trash cans for PET bottles and cans are either installed directly in the vending machine or right next to it, providing people a place to throw away their empty drinks in an otherwise rather trashcan-lacking country. The more vending machines there are, however, the more trashcans need to be emptied. Specialized maintenance companies make sure that there’s no litter, restock the machines regularly, and perform all sorts of other maintenance-related tasks. It’s a system that works so flawlessly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an overflowing trashcan or malfunctioning machine, making vending machines almost ridiculously reliable.
5) Because even now, the prices stay low!
As of 2017, the prices for drinks sold in vending machines still are surprisingly low, even while Tokyo has a reputation for being expensive. Coffee costs 130 yen, while 500ml of juice or green tea are a mere 160 yen, generally speaking. Some decades ago, every drink could be had for one single coin, but the raising consumption tax has caused vending machine drink prices to rise with it. One thing that has stayed steady is the convenience, though. Without the need to line at a cashier and even offering to pay with electronic money, vending machines definitely have surpassed the test of time.