Mango Beat: Japan's vending machine culture

written by Martin Ita-as
originally published on Inquirer.net

Have you ever used a vending machine? The convenience of these machines in the modern day has made grabbing drinks and snacks easier without having to wait in line to pay. From chips to cold and even hot drinks, these item-dropping contraptions definitely make self-serving a whole lot easier.
But in Japan, a country of technology and modern innovations, vending machines aren’t just a form of convenience, but also a part of culture and daily living. In the Land of the Rising Sun, this simple snack-distributing machine has gone above and beyond the dispensing of foodstuff. First appearing in 1950s Japan with drink machines, they’ve continued to flourish many decades later, especially in the age of automation and speedy service.
In certain parts of the country, area-specific vending machines can be found. In temples and other holy shrines, cloth charms and souvenirs are often a big draw for locals and tourists. From things like “success in school” or “prosperity in business ventures,” there is a charm for nearly every type of situation where good fortune is needed. In places where personnel can be a little limited, charm vending machines are a great way to meet the demand of large swaths of tourists.
Aside from specific machines like souvenir-vending machines at airports or bait-dispensing at fishing spots, there are also ones that put convenience at the forefront. From things like umbrellas for rainy days, wine for parties, underwear for unexpected overnight stays, and even piping hot ramen bowls, all these can come straight from a machine that gives you what you want right then and there.
So, next time you travel to the wonderful Japan, seek out your favorite vending machines and appreciate how much easier life is with them around.