Straightaway, from the Land of the Rising Sun, I am penning down my thoughts on one of the most awe-striking features of this land, that is, about the unique device known as the Vending machines (Jidouhanbaiki in Japanese) of Japan. Initially installed by a tobacco vendor in 1888, (in Bakan) now known as Yamaguchi prefecture, vending machines might be quite familiar to a few netizens who keep interest in knowing about this beautiful country. But, experiencing it for real is always extraordinary and I believe it's worth a share.
(Photo taken at Narumi Station, Nagoya)
The concept of vending machines is not new even in a country like India where we mostly find them installed in the big metro cities like Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai etc. Although, these machines with their limited presence haven't yet gained much of its popularity among the people there. So, what is so unique about the vending machines found in Japan? Apart from the stock of beverages from flavored tea or coffee, to different flavored juices and water, no matter it is during the scorching summer days or the frost biting winter days, from these machines one can also get access to a wide range of convenient food products at much affordable rates. And this is all possible only in this country for its availability of the most efficient vending machines that are set up at a minimum distance at every convenient corner of the land that is accessible within one’s walking distance mostly. So, today, with this small piece of my writing, I am going to narrate as to what is so magical about these vending machines, what is found within these machines apart from the beverages, where we can find these machines and why is it so popular in Japan? I am sure after reading this, you might wonder if only our country had also been equipped with such amazing facilities that are cost-effective, healthy, easy to use and way handy.
As per sources, according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, Japan has currently about 5 million vending machines where 1 vending machine caters to the need of 23 people within the locality. As one steps into this country, something that is eye-catching is the installation of the vending machines installed almost everywhere all across. They are found in every station, every building, in and outside schools, hospitals, near residential areas, parks, in any street and even at the remotest place of this country you will find them installed 24x7. Well, isn't it fascinating?
(Umbrella Vending Machine in Tokyo | Photo: Rita Hazarika)
Mostly, it is in Tokyo where one can find such a wide range of diversity and in other parts like Nagoya, it is mainly the different unique forms of drinks, newspapers and cigarettes that are largely sold. In case of drinks, you will mostly get mineral water, sports water, lemonade and other forms of aerated drinks like Japanese Coca-Cola, peach flavored juices those which are usually sweet in taste. While coffee cans consist of both Black and milk coffee with common Japanese brands like Boss, Blend, Pokka etc. While when it comes to tea, it is a stock of variety of green tea mainly of different flavors, to apple tea, jasmine tea, milk tea etc. of their famous Suntory brand. The prices of these cans usually range from 100 yen to 130 yen, while some special Black Coffee, or green tea costs around 160 yen to 200 yen, which is anyway affordable, even for the students. During summer, usually you'll find the cold drinks and iced water, which slowly turns into a stock of warm beverages as winter sets in. Near every vending machines, trash bins are placed, so that you do not pollute the city after you are done using it and dump it on the right place. Surprisingly, every citizen in this country from kids to oldies have always followed the rules diligently. And may be, despite the use of such high number of plastic bottles and cans, Japan continues to be the cleanest country with clean streets and surroundings.
Another noticeable feature is that none of the vending machines is found at a vandalized state that clearly indicates how responsible are the citizens of this country, marked with less crime scenes and timely maintenance of public goods and services. Every day, new cans and bottles are replaced as per the expiry dates of the earlier ones and you usually never find any vending machine empty. It is a rare case, when some vending machines are under construction and in that case, they are however labelled with ‘do not use/out of service’tag. The popularity of these machines has started since long back with rise in population density in the cities, their busy schedules that mostly demands overtime, their love for convenience and fantasy to things related to automation and timely availability of consumer products at such affordable rates. So, what is your opinion about such efficient vending machines? Do we not need them abundantly with such variety in our place too?This is why I find these vending machines to be magical, for the service these vending machines render in this country is always fascinating. These machines which are an inevitable part of Japanese cityscape also tells us a lot about Japanese work culture, love of technology and their environmental awareness at one go.
[ Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the Publisher. ]