I don’t think there is anybody who would disagree that no country does vending machines quite like Japan. From mobile phones to soft toys and, of course, plain old food and beverage, it seems that no product has escaped temporary imprisonment into these machines of convenience.
Tokyo Shinjuku sanchome jidohanbaiki – shopping dining business and entertainment district
vending machine row:
General vandalizing of public property has been kept so well in check in Japanese society and this has allowed vending machines to flourish across the land. Back home, I just can’t imagine a vending machine enjoying a quiet night out in public without it being harassed by the most mischievous members within our community. Safety and the fact that Japanese love the convenience of picking up all sort of stuff at odd hours means vending machines enjoy a purposeful life here.
Vending machines exist of course to provide convenience to those communities it serves and if you venture out of the big cities, you may notice different kinds of products being dispensed. Machines offering fresh vegetables and eggs are not uncommon in the countryside for example. They are not as sophisticated as those found in the big cities with their flashing lights and screens but are still completely automated and vending machines by definition.
If vegetables and eggs were a surprise for you, then vending machines dispensing rice will intrigue you even further. We know rice is the staple diet in Japan but really, who needs to buy a sack of rice outside of store hours! And not just standard white rice, but these vending machines will usually also offer a variety of different grains from various regions.
Now if you are the type of person who is not satisfied with plain old white rice, then there is another option of buying unmilled rice. This is basically rice with just the rice husk removed. Also commonly referred to as brown rice which although has recently enjoyed a surge of popularity in the West, has not had the same adoption by the Japanese. People who buy this type of rice are not doing so to consume it immediately but are taking it to another destination – yes another vending machine!
This type of rice milling vending machine is usually found in the parking lots of hardware stores but trust me, I’ve seen them in much stranger locations. You begin by taking your bag of unmilled rice purchased at the prior vending machine. There is a large spot in which you pour the rice while holding your breath to avoid inhaling the dust that inevitably follows. Select your desired polish setting (from less brown to glorious, angelic white) and drop in Y300 for 30kg. What happens next is quite an experience as the machines coughs to life, literally with plumes of the before mentioned dust. Hint: Most people usually wait outside the booth during this time. About 10 minutes later, you not only have bespoke rice, but a unique experience to share with your friends back home.