You can buy almost anything in these vending machines. You can see in this picture it is a generic coca cola one. Just around the corner are another two. One of them is a Suntory one and the other I can't remember what company it was.
You can buy chocolate bars in vending machines. I've seen nappy vending machines. (For North American readers, a nappy is a diaper.) Of course you can buy newspapers from vending machines.
Two vending machines that I can remember were what I call the quintessential Japanese vending machine.
One vending machine I found in a very rural area in Chiba Prefecture. It was basically in the middle of nowhere and lets just say it was selling some very provocative literature and entertainment goods. It was hidden away behind a wall which piqued my curiosity. However when I found out what it was, I got out of there very, very, very quickly. News of you frequenting places like that gets around pretty quickly in rural areas like that.
Another vending machine I did not even notice until I had been standing beside it for ten minutes or so which as you are about to learn would make me look like a very dodgy character. It was in a suburban area in Tokyo on one of the busiest roads in the metropolis.
From memory I was waiting for a friend outside this shop and as is usual with me I arrived early. So I did what I normally do, I waited. After about ten minutes I noticed a vending machine behind me, so I had a look at what they were selling and to my shock and a little bit of excitement to be honest, I found a vending machine that I had heard of but I had never seen before, the type of vending machine where teenage girls sell their underwear. How dodgy I must have looked standing there for more than ten minutes.
Enough with the funny stories and let me ask you a question, why are there so many vending machines in Japan? I'm going to hazard a guess.
I consider Japan an introvert country. An introvert country? What is that I hear you ask.
Well lets just say that the United States of America is an extrovert country. I believe that you have to be a little loud and bold to get anywhere in the USA whereas Japanese are stereotypically a little bit more reserved. Japan is a group based culture which means that they find it difficult to talk to people outside their group which is introverted isn't it?
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. I mean there are millions of introverted Americans and millions of extroverted Japanese it is just on the whole I believe these countries are extroverted and introverted respectively.
So, is it possible that there are many vending machines in Japan to help people not to interact with each other? People want to go and buy their coca cola or chocolate bar without having to answer questions like do you want a bag or is the amount of money you have just given the right amount of money that you want to give. (Don't worry, it sounds much better when you say that previous sentence in Japanese.)
I know that there are vending machines in other countries but it is plausible that there are so many because of the introvert idea.
Whatever the number of vending machines is I wonder when the time will be when all convenience stores are run by robots. I've heard that in Nagasaki there is a hotel that is staffed by robots. That sounds kind of fun and creepy at the same time.
Vending machines everywhere, hotels run by robots. What is going to be next? That is a very interesting question. I see in a news article on a New Zealand news website that bank branches might be going the way of the dodo.
Are more and more people going to show introvert tendencies because of the lack of human contact? It would be interesting to come back in 100 years to find out. Quite possibly.