There is a vending machine for every 23 people in Japan. That’s the highest vending machine per capita on the planet. After the business card fiasco I started to become keenly aware of all the vending machines that I saw here in Japan. I noticed: they are everywhere! Indeed, what we’re looking at here is a Japanese institution. Behind me sits an entire shop dedicated to chopsticks. Yes, I’m about to go inside. The first thing you have to know in order to understand the vending machines, is that Japan is an aging country. The average age here is 46 years old, which is almost double the world average. And the fertility rate is 1.4 which means the population is actually shrinking. This is actually a looming crisis for Japan generally, but one of the effects of it is that the labor market is very expensive. There’s a scarcity of low-skilled labor. So, instead of paying a sales clerk to sit and collect your money when you buy a piece of gum, they just put it in a machine and automate the whole thing. And the same goes for real estate. Japan is one of the densest countries in the world. 93 percent of the population lives in cities. People literally live in apartment smaller than your SUV. So instead of paying a lot of money for a store front, retailers will just slip a little machine into an alleyway to save a lot of money and they can still turn a really good profit. According to one essay that I read from a Japanese economist here in Tokyo, the bigger explanation for the vending machines is a fascination or even an obsession with automation and robotics. Everything that can be automated here, is automated. When I go into order like a ramen or breakfast, more often than not i order on a machine and I give a little ticket to someone. It’s indicative of a broader cultural trend of wanting to automate every system you possibly can. Every taxi in Tokyo has automated doors that the driver controls. I don’t want to overstate this. There’s still a major appreciation for handcrafted artisanal goods here in Japan. A good example of this is the seven-year-old coffee shop I just got out of, where they literally use a weighted scale to weigh their coffee beans before grinding them and brewing them to order To cool down their coffee they put it into a metal vessel and spin it around a giant ice cube. So yes, they love automation but they’re still very much in touch with the handmade. So another thing that totally contributes is this: coinage. So much coinage. The one big caveat to the whole automation thing is that they haven’t really gotten on board with credit cards yet. Everything is cash based. And because of that you always have coinage. One of their highest coin is worth like five dollars and let’s be honest: there’s nothing more satisfying than unloading some of the change in your pocket into a vending machine for some yummy treat. My personal favorite item is hot green tea comes out wonderfully warm and you just wonder how you got so lucky. So Japan is an aging nation with expensive labor and a love for robots and too many coins in its pocket

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100 thoughts on “Why Japan has so many vending machines”

  1. Hey everyone: this dispatch video is part of the Vox Borders project. I'm visiting six places around the world to investigate the human impact of borders, and those six videos will be released in fall 2017. In the meantime I'm making these vlog style shorts.

    If you want to follow my travels, the best way to do it is following my FB page:
    and signing up for the newsletter at I'll be asking for video ideas, feedback on the project, and answering questions as it unfolds.


  2. I just thought that the reason for all the vending machines was that Japanese were so busy they had no time to go to restaurants or wait in line during business hours.

  3. I want vending machines everywhere for everything in my country India.
    Its looks easy,cool and never gets spammed.
    I dont know why he didnt find the positive sides.

  4. Everything was def not automated when I lived there in 2003. There was def cigs and beer in vending machines tho

  5. Japan got rid rid of those scrub cashiers asking for higher minimum wages and replaced with a machine who doesn’t complain. Great!

  6. And… The people are civilised enough to not break and loot the items in the machine. That's also a cultural factor.

  7. This is the kind of Vox content I like watching. I'll support you guys as long as you are doing this on a regular basis. I am tired of the lying on a regular basis when it comes to any politics.

    Yes this is coming from a guy with plenty of liberal views.

  8. No real insight into why japan has vending machines , lots of info being put together, to sound coherent . In fact lots of B.S

  9. Vending machine is convenient for me when i am go out for business overseas. Not only that, i still can have meal when i am going home at late night after work hours and if i stay work overtime, i just go to nearest vending machine to buy some meals and then go back to office.

  10. I wish there were vending machines everywhere in my town. For pizza, for noodles, for ice cream, for shoes, for everything.

  11. Japan is just an amazing country .Japanese are very friendly people and take care of even very minute small things .Japanese are very perfect in their work and are workaholic.
    Yeah coins comes out of ATM machine.
    What to say about Public Toilets,these are more cleaner than our home toilets & are automated.
    Japanese care for hygiene too much & what to speak about Japanese food,just yummy 😋.Great, evening time is for restaurants & Japanese are very punctual about meal timings .
    Japan is just amazing & is a different world.Everything is set as per itinerary and Japanese are very punctual on time.Everything you see in Japan is very tidy and shiny.Hats off to Japan 🇯🇵.

  12. I heard Japanese are polite and intellectual people. I would like to visit Japan one day.And personally I do not like vending machine food and hope there’s good vegetarian food available too. Even though I’m non-veg.

  13. this guy really grinds my gears ⚙️ how can you visit a country as a superficial tourist, contribute absolutely nothing while you’re there, and report as if you know anything at all. He does not speak for America. Japan is very innovative with high populations. More people means more demand. The convenience of a vending machine is meant to service a large portion of people for a low amount of cost. This has no reflection on anything other than the desire for speedy services in areas with high demand.

  14. I wonder if this love for automation isn't part of a bigger collective cultural tendency in Japan. When you think about it the original religion of Japan, Shinto, is an animistic collection of beliefs where any living thing, object or natural phenomena is or can be a spirit, a god even. This gives intention to things which in other cultures are not given any and is reflected in anime and even language. Indeed, in Japanese there is a strong tendency to say, e.g. "The vase accidentally fell" rather than "I/you made the vase fall" which uses the particle "ga" and a verb. In a country where (before seismology) thousands of earthquakes happen suddenly, like on their own, every year and before the beginning of it's civilization even, it's not wonder that people gave intention and spirits to things in the first place. I wonder if the fascination for objects moving on their own comes from that.

  15. Oh my God automation! How weird and strange Japanese like to automate stores and service! Nowhere but Japan utilize automation! Automation is an indication of severe social problems! Automation is so bad, aberrant, and rude! How did human race scoop to such a dangerous low level?

  16. I think one of the important reason is Japan is so safe. Therefore no one try to steal things from vending machine and damage the machine

  17. japan loves automation yet in the US automation is terrible and is stealing jobs
    japan makes money from automation while the US loses jobs

  18. This guy just made all Vox borders videos lose all credibility, and by extension i am questioning how much research is really put in all Vox videos. Man what a shame.

  19. I could be wrong but Japan as been interested in AI/robotics before they had any real problem in population decline. Also I believed they where early in implementing JIT(Just in Time) logistics in regards to manufacturing before US manufacturing started taking it seriously so they have a history with not just wanting to "automate" whatever they can but also with improving/streamlining any process whether it being an aspect of business or with their day to day lives.

  20. I like the warm drinks in the vending machine when I went there, it tasted nice and also the food in the restaurants :3

    I wanna go there again someday

  21. Asks why Japan uses so many vending machines…
    Gives us a complete summary of Japan's culture towards thr future of automation while still helding on their traditional handcrafted products

  22. This guy gives so many baseless speculations…i usually like Vox videos, but the connection to the birth rate and aging population is silly. There are convenience stores around every corner in Japan. Getting a drink from a non-automated source is just as easy as the opposite.

  23. 1:40
    I live in Tokyo, but I have never seen this tiny boxes where he insists Japanese people live

    He knows nothing about Japan

  24. The coin is a major issue in Japanese currency in my opinion because there are no bills smaller than 1000 yen, which is equivalent to about 10 dollars. I kept ending up with a noticeably heavy pocket full of change by the end of the day.

  25. Simple 24/7 potential to earn money. You don't have to pay for a employee or a till or pension scheme sick pay… Plus if it ain't making money on that street, how easy is it to move to another…

  26. 🙂 you can find almost anything in vending machines in Japan: newspapers, popular books, manga, umbrellas, batteries, sanitary napkins…. these are some that just rushed out of my mind

  27. i wonder if the mainland chinese society will follow japanese society closely by becoming highly automated because mainland china prioritises high tech development

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