The Joy of Japanese Vending Machines

Japanese vending machines have a worldwide, and well-deserved, reputation.

You can find jidohanbaiki (vending machines) in every train and bus station, hotel, and public area, as well as on many (if not most) streets in cities of any significant size. Most stock drinks:

Vending Machine

But many sell food, though food and drinks are rarely found in the same machines. Normally, a machine offers one or the other.

The strangest thing I’ve seen in a vending machine is cheese sticks:

vending machine cheese

(These were in a vending machine on the platform at Gifu Station. The machine also offered various fresh-packaged pastries.)

Unlike U.S. vending machines, which typically sell only cold beverages, machines in Japan will typically offer both hot and cold drinks (from the same machine). Hot beverage choices normally have red backing behind the price information:

Corn soup in vending machine - Version 2

And yes, the offering on the right really is corn soup. (The one in the center is cocoa, and the one on the left is one of Japan’s many brands of coffee.)

As you can see in the larger vending machine photo above, the price backing on cold beverages is customarily blue (denoting cold).

Unlike coffee vending machines in the USA, which normally dispense coffee directly into a styrofoam or paper cup, the coffee dispensed from jidohanbaiki–whether hot or cold–is packaged in sealed cans, some with soda-like pull tabs and others with resealable screw-off caps like a water bottle.

Wonda Cafe au Lait

People often ask me if Japanese vending-machine coffee is any good. I love good coffee, and drink a lot, and in my opinion Japanese vending-machine coffee is excellent. Despite being pre-packaged, and canned or bottled, it rivals most fresh-brewed coffee you’ll find in the United States, and the vending machines really do dispense it HOT.

More on Japanese coffee another time…but if you find yourself in Japan, be sure to buy at least one drink from a vending machine, and let me know what you think about it too!

Have you ever bought drinks from Japanese vending machines? Leave a comment and let me know!