Monday, July 6, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Weird Things Sold in Japanese Vending Machines

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know that the Japanese like vending machines. With 1 vending machine for every 23 people, they REALLY like them. They’re everywhere – even on the trains. And not just the “normal” kind, like soda or candy vending machines. Some of the vending machines in Japan are funny, or just downright weird! Would you buy any of these things from a vending machine?


1    Ice Cream

You’ve probably seen those Dippin’ Dots vending machines at movie theaters if you live in the United States, but you’ve certainly never seen an ice cream cone vending machine! I’m sure the ice cream truck people aren’t too happy about this one. It’s less nostalgic, but I’m sure a lot of people prefer a vending machine to chasing a car down the street hollering and waving money while to listening to “Popeye the Sailor Man” on loop.
Ice Cream
2    Live Rhinoceros Beetles

Probably one of the weirdest options. Apparently these armored beetles are popular pets in Japan, especially with young boys who collect them and fight them.
Live Rhinoceros Beetles
3    Ramen Noodles

Japan is kind of obsessed with ramen (after all, who else has a museum dedicated to ramen noodles), so of course they have to have ramen vending machines. Japan without a ramen vending machine would be like the United States without chocolate vending machines. It’s a very convenient way to get lunch, too—your favorite cheap, easy meal just got even quicker!
Ramen Noodles
4    Burgers

I question the sanitary aspect of this machine. I wonder if the Japanese version of the FDA has to check these on a regular basis? It’s scary enough to get a burger from a real restaurant. Still, this hasn’t stopped Japan from putting hamburgers in a vending machine. Too bad you can’t ask a machine to hold the onion.
5    Live Lobsters

This looks like it would be tempting to try, even if you didn’t want lobster for dinner. Modeled after a claw game machine, customers get to catch their own lobster using the control buttons to direct the claw. No word on how many tries you get.
Live Lobsters
6    Bananas

Seriously, this is a fantastic idea. Bananas come in their own packaging, they’re quick and clean to eat, and they are way healthier than a processed packaged food or a candy bar. I hope it’s cheap, too, because that would make vending machine bananas the perfect on-the-go food. The only issue with this is how fast bananas go bad. I guess you just have to hope that there are no black spots on the opposite side of the banana you select.
7    T-shirts in a can

Who needs the mall? You can walk up to this vending machine, select your design, and retrieve your new shirt without waiting in that long line or battling the crowds at a store. The drawback here is that you can’t return the shirt if it doesn’t fit right.
 T Shirts In A Can
8    Eggs

Can you say scary? I don’t know how I feel about getting an egg out of a vending machine. I guess you have to trust that they’re stocked freshly every day. It does beat standing in a long line at the grocery store, though. Quick runs for a carton of eggs just got quicker—now, if only someone would invent a vending machine for UHT milk, the world would be perfect.
9    Rice

Of course. Why didn’t I think of this? There’s nothing more basic than a bowl of rice. I guess this is for those people who are sick and tired of the ramen noodle vending machine.
10    Liquor

You can buy cans of beer, draft beer, sake, even liquor from vending machines. A warning is printed on the machine that the legal drinking age is 20 and the machines are turned off from 11pm to 6am. I guess the Japanese are ok with the honor system.
11    Lettuce

I wonder how many people opt for the lettuce vending machine instead of the burger vending machine? It’s called the Chef’s Farm and it’s geared toward restaurants that want fresh lettuce on demand. It is pretty cool that up to 60 heads of lettuce is actually grown in the machine each day using 40 watt fluorescent bulbs.
12   Buddhist Amulets

Ancient religion is more modernized now, I guess. You can push a few buttons and get the amulet of your choice from the temple vending machine.
Buddhist Amulets
13    Bread in a can

Okay, this sounds either really weird or really convenient. I guess it depends on how the bread tastes. I prefer mine fresh baked, but I guess this is not too far removed from sliced bread at the supermarket.
Bread In A Can
14    Bras

No fitting rooms available. I hope it fits. One question, though—under what circumstances would this be necessary?
15    Sushi

I wouldn’t try this. The bread is ok, the bananas are great, and the lettuce is slightly questionable, but sushi? Really? I’m not convinced that sushi from a vending machine is safe.
16    Gachapon

These vending machines spit out small toys that many people of all ages collect. You don’t know which you’ll get so collectors keep trying. Entire stores are devoted to these machines and some of the toys are pretty bizarre, ranging from detailed bug faces to vomiting superheroes.


The Japanese are masters of automation. They’ve used these skills to put all kinds of foods, useful items, and just plain weird stuff in their vending machines. Try slipping your spare yen into one of these machines for a uniquely Japanese experience.

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