Yes, Japan has a lot of vending machines. They line every street, making sure that no matter what time of the night it is you always have their friendly white glow to light your way home. Of course it's a sign of Japan's rampant consumer culture, but it's also pretty goddamn convenient and pretty vital for surviving the strength-sapping summer, or warming up in the freezing winter. Also the colours are so pretty! And the contents of each machine vary ever so slightly, so that I've started running over to check out unusual looking vending machines incase they have a can of Nectar of the Gods or something.
Anyway, here's a pretty perfunctory post about the joys of Japanese vending machines. Let's start off with a photo I took after the snow hit Sapporo this year. Everyone seems to love this photo so let's look at it again:
It's actually a comment on the ritual of... something... or... yeah. I got lucky with that shot.
I have never seen the used-underwear vending machine of legend. If they ever existed, I doubt they do now. Although apparently this is the chief point of reference for Japan, for those who live on the internet. Which of course tells you a lot more about the internet than it does about Japan etc. etc.
One huge difference is that in the UK we have so many chocolate and sweets vending machines, whereas in Japan they have almost none. The one time I did find chocolate in a vending machine, quite awesomely it came in a glass jar, I assume so that it could be slotted into the machine where a can should go. I kept the jar of course, it looked more valuable than the chocolate, and I like shiny things:
Here's a blog by a guy in my city who takes a photo almost every day (Monday to Friday) of the Coca-Cola vending machine opposite his appartment: http://jihan.sblo.jp/ It's a wonderful idea, and he's something of a hero to me, but that doesn't stop his blog being pretty soul-smashingly boring after a few minutes. Also: Coca-Cola? It's a shame it isn't a Suntory or Sapporo vending machine, I like those a lot more. His blog name apparently translates as "I take a picture of a vending machine everyday (or so.) I am sorry." It's nice that he apologises for doing it.
And here's a Sapporo Ramen vending machine that I found hidden away in the backstreets of Fukuoka. I have now found one of these in Sapporo too, but for a while it felt like this was the bastion of Sapporo-style ramen in Fukuoka - Tonkotsu Ramen City.
There's a good post about the Vending Machine expo in Tokyo here. Loads of really cool machines that I'm sure I'll never see.
And of course, another interesting thing about the vending machines in Japan is that if they were on the streets like this in the UK, they'd all be tipped over or smashed. No-one thinks to do that in Japan.