The Real Reason Japan Has So Many Vending Machines

When you visit Japan, you'll notice there's something that the country has more than others. And no, it is not ramen or sushi stalls. It's vending machines. Japan is home to many bizarre things, but its love for vending machines tops most others.

Vending machines abound in Japan, selling anything from food to technology. In 2017 the Japan Times estimated the country had around 4.9 million vending machines. It's an integral part of Japanese retail, so people don't think twice about using them. But why so many?

Kotaku writes that in Japan, the idea of buying goods without human interaction has been around for a long time; the first vending machine appeared there in 1888, selling cigarettes. The vending machine business really blew up after World War II. As Japan looked for economic recovery, setting up shops got expensive. A vending machine was an inexpensive way to sell items without the hassle and expense of acquiring property, hiring employees, and maintaining a brick and mortar store. Even today, farmers, usually selling vegetables, set up unmanned stalls on roadsides in the Japanese countryside. People go up to the booth, take what they need, and leave money for the seller — a vending machine without the machine.

They love convenience and automation

Vending machines also point to Japan's need for convenience and lack of crime, explains Business Insider. Japan has one of the lowest robbery rates in the world, so vending machines are rarely broken into, and if they are broken into, the machines have a direct phone connection to police stations. Kotaku also points out vending machine operators regularly maintain the devices.

With the fast-paced Japanese lifestyle, it's easy to see why vending machines became integral to everyday life. The Japanese are also very interested in automation, because it's convenient and easily fits into their busy lives. Business Insider reports Japan has a singular fascination with machines and robots, so it makes sense they get their food, drinks, and other goods from a device, too. The Japanese are also well-known for their orderly approach to things, so choosing what you need from a well-laid out grid in a machine is fantastic. It's why their lost and found system is excellent.

Japanese vending machines sell a huge variety of goods, though Kotaku says rumors of underwear vending machines are not accurate. So if you're ever in Japan, it might be fun to check out what things you can get without needing to talk to people. Ah, the introvert's dream.