A sampling of drink dispensers in Tokyo.
Maybe a year back I posted some photos of "rare" vending machines I'd come across. I've rounded up a few more since then, and tried to remember to swing by and photo others (like the Green Gum machine on kuyakusho-doori in Shinjuku - don't forget!). For your pleasure, two collections of machines with some forced narrative.
First up, beverages.
Folks who visited Japan up until the mid-90s will remember beer machines on every street corner. Beer was just another beverage, and any mom or pop could buy it and stick it out in front of their neighborhood business. Probably most of them did it to get discount beer for their own consumption. Way back in 1922, in became law in Japan that you must be 20 to consume alcohol. It's still not enforced at all, and until recently all those beer machines meant anyone who could reach a button could buy. Finally in 1992 the National Association of Alcohol Retailers (Zenshukyo) passed a resolution to limit the selling hours, locations, and place other restrictions on beer vending machines. A few years later, under pressure from the World Health Organization, citizens groups, and the Japanese government, they actually started enforcing those rules.
You can still find them around, but I've seen many more in hotel ice nooks than on the street these days.
It's amazing the variety of machines that are available for each distributor. This Coke machine is the only machine I've noticed with 1.5 liter bottles in it. Disturbingly, they have big bottles of both Fanta orange and Qoo orange - somebody has an orange drink addiction, I'd say!
Adjacent to it is a machine with regular, smaller bottles. They're located on a high traffic corner next to a pedestrian/bicycle-only train crossing of the Chuo Line. During the 10-to-30 minute wait while the crossing bars are shut, you might actually be able to finish a whole bottle (the wait was cut to just a couple of minutes recently as phase two of JR's raised railway was completed). I really can't shake the feeling that the business owner put these machiens in for their own pleasure, but then again the nearest convenience store is maybe 10 minutes away by bicycle. I could hang around for a few days to see who buys, but the biggest entertainment would come from someone opening a big bottle right after it gets shaken up in the shoot.
In this 120 yen era of soft drink vending, it's truly a rare site to see this: an 80 yen machine! This was way out in the middle of nowhere, a 30 minute walk from Takao Station, opposite diretion from Mount Takao. There's Coke in there, but I bet it's sold out all of the time. The machine is mostly packed with second rate drinks like Pokka Coffee. The bad taste in drinks goes along with the bad taste in store names: Blackie Lounge.
Obviously this isn't a vending machine. This is a Kiosk on JR's Chuo Line, Ogikubo Station. The vendors used to be extra eyes and ears on either end of each platform. In a recent cost cutting move, JR East has begun shuttering them after the morning rush hour, and replacing them with vending machines, like the one just below.
This machine is for herbal drinks. Let me come at this from the side. There are two kinds of medicine in Japan, Western drugs and Japanese herbs. If you notice early symptoms, run to a 薬局 (yakkyoku, herbalist), who will give you preventative medicines. If you find yourself floored by something, or dying of something, get a prescription and pick it up at a ドラッグストア (doraggo sutoa, drug store). Both require difficult licences to run. Definitely the most common herbal remedies are for hang overs, and every convenience store sells watered-down versions of them. So does this vending machine, located on a train platform.
In Tokyo Station, this is a true oddball. Coffee has been vended in cans in Japan since the late 60s. Cup machines like this, while still found in private businesses, are almost unheard of in public. I know of two (the other is below). This is over by the Keiyou Line platforms.
Here's another, newer cup coffee vending machine, found in a lonely, subterranean part of Shinjuku Station, in between Marunouchi Line Shinjuku Station and Oedo Line Shinjuku-Nishiguchi Station. In lieu of selection, they have an LCD screen with advertising to make some extra cash.
Here's one you'll never find on your own. A milk vending machine, outside of a mom and pop milk seller on a neighborhood shopping street in southern Suginami-ku. They sell Koshin Milk, from Chiba.