The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they may be nearly 20 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.
In Japan, you’re never more than a few steps away from a cold drink or an ice cream treat. Just make sure you have some change handy.
Japan is famous for its proliferation of vending machines, boasting more than 5.5 million of them. That’s approximately 37 per square mile. It may seem like overkill if you’re used to vending machines that only dispense soda, snacks or, at their most exotic, brewed coffee.
But Japan has unlocked the full potential of the vending machine. Not only is there a greater variety of drink options than you’d see in the United States — machines often carry more than a dozen different beverages, sometimes even beer — but there are machines that carry everything from a bouquet of flowers to a hot sandwich. If you suffer a sudden wardrobe disaster, there are even machines carrying t-shirts or neckties.
The vending machine serves an important niche in Japanese society. In megacities like Tokyo, real estate is at a premium. Vending machines can serve the basic retail needs of the public while taking up very little space and paying no employees. But it’s more than just an urban need. You’ll even find a vending machine on top of Mount Fuji.
You can find almost anything you need — and plenty more you don’t — in a Japanese vending machine. Just make sure to have change (see last week’s installment on yen). Other than some machines which accept transit cards, none accept credit.
An assortment of Japanese drinks inside a vending machine on the streets of Tokyo.