One of the most photographed items by tourists visiting Japan is the nation’s vending machines. Their ubiquity (JNTO estimates them at 5.52 million), variation in design, product selection, and occasional awkward location makes them excellent models.
Thankfully Japanese vending machine makers have no shortage on creativity and innovation and continuously come up with new products and high-tech options so fickle consumers don’t get bored.
Acure is the leader of the pack when it comes to high-tech beverage vending. This is the company that released touchscreen purchasing in 2010 and their latest innovation is cashless vending machines. While this may not seem cutting edge given that we can buy drinks using IC cards already, these machines are entirely cashless and you can use their app to pre-order drinks at designated machines before you even leave your house.
The machines are placed at major train stations in Tokyo and Yokohama and use IC cards and QR codes for drink purchases. Using the company’s Acure Pass app, you can order drinks for yourself — or for a friend — then use the QR code you receive to unlock your drink of choice. Also, you can “win” drinks by answering surveys, and if you order drinks regularly, you can receive a small discount.
Not to be outdone by big city high-tech antics, the town of Uchiko in Ehime has made the news lately for its truly original origami vending machine. This quaint contraption is owned by a 61-year old woman who runs the shop it stands outside, and it was her idea to put the aging appliance to use instead of throwing it away. She makes the handmade origami creations on sale, offering a fun and original souvenir for those traveling through.
What are the strangest, or most interesting vending machines you’ve spotted in Japan or elsewhere?
Origami Vending Machine Images: Twitter/@bon_chic