Why Japan has so many vending machines

Why Japan has so many vending machines

There is a vending machine for every 23 people in Japan. That’s the highest vending machine per capita on the planet. After the business card fiasco I started to become keenly aware of all the vending machines that I saw here in Japan. I noticed: they are everywhere! Indeed, what we’re looking at here is a Japanese institution. Behind me sits an entire shop dedicated to chopsticks. Yes, I’m about to go inside. The first thing you have to know in order to understand the vending machines, is that Japan is an aging country. The average age here is 46 years old, which is almost double the world average. And the fertility rate is 1.4 which means the population is actually shrinking. This is actually a looming crisis for Japan generally, but one of the effects of it is that the labor market is very expensive. There’s a scarcity of low-skilled labor. So, instead of paying a sales clerk to sit and collect your money when you buy a piece of gum, they just put it in a machine and automate the whole thing. And the same goes for real estate. Japan is one of the densest countries in the world. 93 percent of the population lives in cities. People literally live in apartment smaller than your SUV. So instead of paying a lot of money for a store front, retailers will just slip a little machine into an alleyway to save a lot of money and they can still turn a really good profit. According to one essay that I read from a Japanese economist here in Tokyo, the bigger explanation for the vending machines is a fascination or even an obsession with automation and robotics. Everything that can be automated here, is automated. When I go into order like a ramen or breakfast, more often than not i order on a machine and I give a little ticket to someone. It’s indicative of a broader cultural trend of wanting to automate every system you possibly can. Every taxi in Tokyo has automated doors that the driver controls. I don’t want to overstate this. There’s still a major appreciation for handcrafted artisanal goods here in Japan. A good example of this is the seven-year-old coffee shop I just got out of, where they literally use a weighted scale to weigh their coffee beans before grinding them and brewing them to order To cool down their coffee they put it into a metal vessel and spin it around a giant ice cube. So yes, they love automation but they’re still very much in touch with the handmade. So another thing that totally contributes is this: coinage. So much coinage. The one big caveat to the whole automation thing is that they haven’t really gotten on board with credit cards yet. Everything is cash based. And because of that you always have coinage. One of their highest coin is worth like five dollars and let’s be honest: there’s nothing more satisfying than unloading some of the change in your pocket into a vending machine for some yummy treat. My personal favorite item is hot green tea comes out wonderfully warm and you just wonder how you got so lucky. So Japan is an aging nation with expensive labor and a love for robots and too many coins in its pocket

Comments (100)

  1. Hey everyone: this dispatch video is part of the Vox Borders project. I'm visiting six places around the world to investigate the human impact of borders, and those six videos will be released in fall 2017. In the meantime I'm making these vlog style shorts.

    If you want to follow my travels, the best way to do it is following my FB page:
    and signing up for the newsletter at I'll be asking for video ideas, feedback on the project, and answering questions as it unfolds.


  2. Most of the information is wrong. This is awful journalism. X2

  3. あなたは日本語を読んで話していますか?

    americans shouldnt be speaking on a lot of things and this is one of em…do better guys….if you know how to read and speak japanese this video wouldnt have been about vending machines.


  4. Take note: “Everything” in Japan is cash base. 🤦🏻‍♂️😂

  5. VOX, do your research next time. Ask the locals to have a clearer picture rather formulate your own opinion, that way you have a better understanding than the things that you made up by your own imagination.

  6. During my very first trip to Japan (July 1989), I noticed vending machines were widely available just like they
    are today. And, by chance, a few years ago I got to to visit a factory where they make some of these machines.
    During the visit the plant manager told me they had been producing them since the 1950s! Maybe Vox should
    do some real research.

  7. Wow you have no idea what you are talking about, vox gets it wrong again. But other than dishonesty, disinformation is what vox is known for.

  8. I had to chuckle a little bit at how poorly researched this video is. I'm guessing the number of Japanese resources you used to reach these conclusions is a number approaching zero. It really seems like these are just guesses by Vox presented as if they were factual information.

  9. Mass migration is destroying Europe. Leave Japan the way it is.

  10. Very well documented

  11. I am not Japanese but I’ve been in Japan long enough to understand that all this information is wrong.

    Pleas don’t let this information mislead you!

  12. Always good stuff, but audio levels jumping around. . Tks.

  13. They're selling chopsticks like wands in Harry Potter.

  14. Let's fill every country with blacks and arabs, they will make them better for sure.

  15. Everyone keeps saying this guy is wrong snd aren't saying why or giving the true information. If youre going to criticize, prove yourself

  16. 97% of people live in cities? It's weird how in the west when we think of Japan we think of traditional rural Japanese countrysides. And it was just like that 5-6 decades ago for the most part.

  17. Why tf was my thing on 144p

  18. Wow I didn’t know so many people were Japanese vending machine experts that’s amazing !

  19. Why are u walking so aggressively? Calm down dude

  20. 俺は田舎育ちなせいか人口が集まっている都会が苦手

  21. The fellow westerner cant even criticize his own country when talking about Japan, and yet in independent videos, he criticizes the US for how broken or improper the laws they are.

  22. "automate every thing you possibly can"…pays cash everywhere

  23. I just thought that the reason for all the vending machines was that Japanese were so busy they had no time to go to restaurants or wait in line during business hours.

  24. I am glad that I grow up in japan!!

  25. what he wanna try to say in this video .. haha

  26. What is the economist's essay that you read? Can't you put a link on the description?

  27. What's better than a sip of hot coffee from a can on top of Hakuba?

  28. I want vending machines everywhere for everything in my country India.
    Its looks easy,cool and never gets spammed.
    I dont know why he didnt find the positive sides.

  29. War criminal Japan please read about unity 731

  30. it's none of your business.

  31. in US install the vending machine with auto-shoot gun.

  32. Watch Nobitas reply to this video, it's a good one. Just type Nobita Vox

  33. I know there are many misunderstandings of Japan in this video. But it’s VOX !! Why would anyone expect the video to be accurate? 😅😅

  34. That background music was very loud and annoying. 😡

  35. Everything was def not automated when I lived there in 2003. There was def cigs and beer in vending machines tho

  36. The host of this series is so pleasing to the eye. Hehe.

  37. 0:23 why does that person behind him has a mask???
    1:10 another one

  38. And here in india I've never used a vending machine

  39. Japan got rid rid of those scrub cashiers asking for higher minimum wages and replaced with a machine who doesn’t complain. Great!

  40. I don't know abt others but its hazardous to indians health

  41. でも電子マネー化はされない

  42. Owww!! Thanks for portuguese subtitle ❤❤❤❤

  43. Clever insight 😯

  44. Hmmmm…..too much speculation. Should've asked a Japanese person since you're in Japan.


  46. Why this doesn't matter

  47. funny how everything he said is pointless lol

  48. And… The people are civilised enough to not break and loot the items in the machine. That's also a cultural factor.

  49. japan, the future

  50. I kinda think it's just because Japan has a lot of people

  51. Vending machines that sell gum are incredibly rare in Japan so this guy has no idea

  52. He walked past this woman at 4:17 and that woman just stared right into the camera

  53. This is the kind of Vox content I like watching. I'll support you guys as long as you are doing this on a regular basis. I am tired of the lying on a regular basis when it comes to any politics.

    Yes this is coming from a guy with plenty of liberal views.

  54. Great,,, more one time use plastic waste being pumped into the world.

  55. Legends say that he is still walking

  56. A lot of salty Japanese here. read at your own risk

  57. who cares… it's not a problem at all

  58. No real insight into why japan has vending machines , lots of info being put together, to sound coherent . In fact lots of B.S

  59. I’m watching these before I go to Japan I better not get food poising 😟😒🤦🏻‍♀️

  60. Real question is who eats ramen for breakfast….

  61. calling population decline in growth a crisis is just a sign of economics dictating our reality

  62. Vending machine is convenient for me when i am go out for business overseas. Not only that, i still can have meal when i am going home at late night after work hours and if i stay work overtime, i just go to nearest vending machine to buy some meals and then go back to office.

  63. 3:07 why does this make me think of Tokyo ghoul

  64. I wish there were vending machines everywhere in my town. For pizza, for noodles, for ice cream, for shoes, for everything.

  65. Don't watch the video, its no nut November remember?

  66. *Talks about gum

    *Shows ice cream vending machine

  67. FeLica IC Cards (like easy Debit Card) are very popular in Japan.
    The touch panel at 4:07 is it.

  68. 自販機も24時間年中無休のコンビニも余りに多過ぎるよ!この国🇯🇵は。

  69. where do we find the soundtrack for this video ?

  70. It's cuz they are running out of people

  71. Vox, great video! Enjoy your weekend! 💯🙏🙌

  72. Don't stroll in and out of places without saying what their name is! I want to know the coffee shop's name.

  73. Japan is just an amazing country .Japanese are very friendly people and take care of even very minute small things .Japanese are very perfect in their work and are workaholic.
    Yeah coins comes out of ATM machine.
    What to say about Public Toilets,these are more cleaner than our home toilets & are automated.
    Japanese care for hygiene too much & what to speak about Japanese food,just yummy 😋.Great, evening time is for restaurants & Japanese are very punctual about meal timings .
    Japan is just amazing & is a different world.Everything is set as per itinerary and Japanese are very punctual on time.Everything you see in Japan is very tidy and shiny.Hats off to Japan 🇯🇵.

  74. Video of Japan not your face

  75. I heard Japanese are polite and intellectual people. I would like to visit Japan one day.And personally I do not like vending machine food and hope there’s good vegetarian food available too. Even though I’m non-veg.

  76. Fascinating country

  77. this guy really grinds my gears ⚙️ how can you visit a country as a superficial tourist, contribute absolutely nothing while you’re there, and report as if you know anything at all. He does not speak for America. Japan is very innovative with high populations. More people means more demand. The convenience of a vending machine is meant to service a large portion of people for a low amount of cost. This has no reflection on anything other than the desire for speedy services in areas with high demand.

  78. I wonder if this love for automation isn't part of a bigger collective cultural tendency in Japan. When you think about it the original religion of Japan, Shinto, is an animistic collection of beliefs where any living thing, object or natural phenomena is or can be a spirit, a god even. This gives intention to things which in other cultures are not given any and is reflected in anime and even language. Indeed, in Japanese there is a strong tendency to say, e.g. "The vase accidentally fell" rather than "I/you made the vase fall" which uses the particle "ga" and a verb. In a country where (before seismology) thousands of earthquakes happen suddenly, like on their own, every year and before the beginning of it's civilization even, it's not wonder that people gave intention and spirits to things in the first place. I wonder if the fascination for objects moving on their own comes from that.

  79. Oh my God automation! How weird and strange Japanese like to automate stores and service! Nowhere but Japan utilize automation! Automation is an indication of severe social problems! Automation is so bad, aberrant, and rude! How did human race scoop to such a dangerous low level?

  80. I think one of the important reason is Japan is so safe. Therefore no one try to steal things from vending machine and damage the machine

  81. No mystery Vox can't solve!

  82. Where is my favourite DEKAVITA?

  83. Why vox likes shutting down channels that they disagree with

  84. We have automated self check-out at my library in Eastern Pennsylvania.

  85. For the people bashing his idea with no substance, what is the real reason Japan has so many vending machines?

  86. 0:47 it's like when Harry got his first wand.

  87. Wonderfully warm..haha… It's a certain special temperature

  88. japan loves automation yet in the US automation is terrible and is stealing jobs
    japan makes money from automation while the US loses jobs

  89. The reason why there are many vending machines in Japan is not because of aging

  90. I wish they had more in the US

  91. I was still waiting for him to say it's all Trumps fault…

  92. This guy just made all Vox borders videos lose all credibility, and by extension i am questioning how much research is really put in all Vox videos. Man what a shame.

  93. I could be wrong but Japan as been interested in AI/robotics before they had any real problem in population decline. Also I believed they where early in implementing JIT(Just in Time) logistics in regards to manufacturing before US manufacturing started taking it seriously so they have a history with not just wanting to "automate" whatever they can but also with improving/streamlining any process whether it being an aspect of business or with their day to day lives.

  94. @4:17 She mirin' brah.

  95. 3:13 Reminds me of antieku

  96. Finally a video that's somewhat happy!

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