The ratio of vending machines to people is one to 23 in Japan, making it the country with the highest density of vending machines in the world! Walking the streets, you’ll find one at every corner, and the vending machine culture here is unlike anywhere else. That said, apart from the usual coffee and snacks, there are also a whole host of quirky and weird vending machines in Japan. Some of them will make you laugh, while some others will make you scratch your head and say, ‘What?’
1. Dashi soup stock
If you don’t look closely, you might think that this vending machine is dispensing tea. That is, until you notice the whole fish that’s within the bottle! Maybe you’re cooking in the dead of night and realize that you’re out of dashi stock. Well, this vending machine will make sure that you will always have access to it, 24/7. You can find them in Tokyo, and they’re also becoming more popular in Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima.
2. Bug snacks
We previously talked about how edible insects could become the food of the future, and it seems like Japan is ahead of everyone else with vending machines dispensing bug snacks. Can we interest you in a cricket energy bar? Or some superworms? If you’re up to challenge your tastebuds, you can find this vending machine outside of Laffine Akihabara, one minute away from Akihabara station.
3. Paper fortunes
With vending machines that dispense paper fortunes, you don’t have to queue up at a temple or shrine anymore. Japanese people love making full use of their time, and these machines make obtaining an omikuji faster and easier than ever before. Simply insert a coin, and receive your fortune! You can find these machines in Narita’s Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, and Yokohama’s Chinatown.
4. Live beetles
One of the weird vending machines in Japan is also a hotly contested one: live beetles. To animal activists, it seems rather cruel to keep these living things in small bottles, out of their natural habitat. However, collecting live bugs is central in the education of young Japanese children and gathering them was once an immersive way for them to learn about bugs. But with natural environments declining, the intention of these vending machines is to serve as a replacement, and provide the same access to future generations. What do you personally feel about it?
5. Live puppies
Apart from live beetles, you can also get a pet any time of the day in Japan. Who would’ve thought that man’s best friend would one day come in a cubbyhole vending machine? We do wonder who these are aimed at. People who feel a sudden pressing, all consuming need for a pet in the middle of the night? After you get your pet, there are also machines to give your pet a bath. They are not something we recommend, but it sure makes the list for weird vending machines in Japan.
6. Pet hats and wigs
Here’s something related to puppies, but much more palatable than actual dogs – hats and wigs for pets! We don’t really know why these exist, but they could come in handy if you have a pet photoshoot and need a last minute costume for your furry friend, or just some way to amuse yourself on a boring day.
Food in vending machines is totally a normal thing in Japan, but no matter how we look at it, raw vegetables just seem like a stretch. Strangely enough, local people don’t seem to bat an eyelid when they walk past a vending machine dispensing a head of lettuce. Apparently you can also find other raw produce in vending machines, including bananas, apples, broccoli, and other greens!
8. Fresh flowers
Forgot a birthday or anniversary? These fresh flower vending machines will come to your rescue. Just insert a few yen and you can walk away with a professional looking bouquet.
No more waiting in line, or god forbid, having to design your own floral masterpiece. You can also find these vending machines in hospitals, airports, or just about anywhere you may need a thoughtful bundle.
9. Sushi socks
Socks in a vending machine might be weird, but pretty cute! The Japanese culture of kawaii means that everything is better when it’s cute. These socks are folded and arranged to look like sushi, and you can take your pick from different types of ‘sushi’. They also make an excellent souvenir for a friend back home, as they truly represent Japanese culture with a healthy side of kawaii!