Japanese vending machines are known in much of the world and the bizarre ones have gained infamy in the social media age. The term for vending machines in Japanese is “jidouhanbaiki” (自動販売機). In a large city like Tokyo or in a smaller town like Hasami, vending machines are a normal feature and the reason why they are so common stems from Japan’s obsession with convenience. According to Japan’s National Tourism Organization Japan has the most vending machines in the world given its size.
The Legend of Used Panties
Vending machines are a typical way to purchase items in Japan, which is why the variety of things available seems to increase. Some of the vending machines are very practical, dispensing food and drinks you would expect, but in Tokyo you can find quite a few interesting ones and also a couple that might make you blush. The legend of machines dispensing used panties is common knowledge at this point, but in truth those machines are rare if they still exist at all. New laws have pushed the sale of dirty panties and other perverted merchandise onto the internet. Likely, the impending 2020 Olympics has something to do with wanting to clean up Tokyo from things that might be deemed as an embarrassment. There are still machines that dispense fake dirty panties, lingerie, and pornography, so don’t feel too sorry for the perverts of Tokyo.
Hot, Cold, and Alcohol
The best vending machines are the ones serving up food and drinks. Craving some hot ramen on a cold night while you wait at the train platform? No worries, there is a good chance you will find a machine to hook you up. Grabbing a beer or highball from a vending machine is popular, especially since it is fine to drink on the street. A cold winter morning while rushing to work is made easier with a hot coffee or hot tea available on the train platform. Strangely, hot corn soup is super common and bread in a can is a thing too; not sure why, but it’s still cool. In Shibuya station there is a banana vending machine. Kind of odd, but again it’s also awesome.
Another form of Japan’s vending machine infatuation is the gachapon machines. These machines are typically outside stores selling comics or novelties, arcades, and toy stores. They can carry all kinds of things, but the common thread is the plastic capsule containers. Usually the capsule makes the item a bit of a mystery until you open it, so most gachapon use that to make it an almost lottery experience. Many foreigners visiting Japan find the gachapon machines to be a lot of fun and a great way to bring home something unique. A store like Village Vanguard in Tokyo has a bunch of gachapon outside and the items are super weird.
Vending machines in Tokyo are one of my favorite things. Unfortunately, the recent crackdown on the perverted ones has taken some of the fun away. If people want to buy used panties, dildos, or any other “naughty” merchandise they will. In fact, the market has just moved onto the internet. It’s annoying that politicians worried about foreign perceptions due to the Olympics have the ability to limit freedom. That being said, there are a few places you can still find the strange and bizarre. Akihabara continues to be a place where “outside the box” merchandise is accessible and the vending machines there are pretty amazing if you know where to look. I’m not going to give specifics, because there is a chance they are illegal, but if you roam around you’ll find them. Another area that won’t disappoint the “curious” is Kabukicho in Shinjuku. I’m not going to lie, I love Kubukicho and a lot of single guys living in Tokyo feel the same. I found an anime themed lingerie machine in Kabukicho last year. It sucks that things have become more sterilized, but the hunt is still fun; just more challenging.