If America can be considered the fast food capital of the world, then Japan can probably claim that title for interesting vending machines, with over 5.52 million machines nationwide generating over 6.95 trillion yen (56 billion dollars) in revenue. Vending machines selling beverages like milk, coffee, beer, and sake bring in the most revenue (1.9 trillion yen, or 24 billion USD, as of 2011). Other vending machines sell hot meals, vegetables, tobacco products, toys, magazines, and neckties.
The very first vending machine in Japan was installed in 1888 and proffered cigarettes. Drink vending machines took off in Japan in the 1950s. In the following decades, especially as the country’s economy grew in post-World War II years, machines selling a variety of other items began appearing. Vending machines offer an easy, low-maintenance marketplace for goods, which is why they’re now entwined in the country’s culture.
Check out 10 items you’d probably be surprised to find in a vending machine. Make sure to pick some of them up, if even just for novelty’s sake, on your next visit to Japan.