Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Economy of Vending Machines

Found within every square meter of Tokyo
So, anyone who has been in Japan for even a second notices right-off-the-bat that there are LOTS and LOTS of vending machines (or 自動販売機 jidouhanbaiki or 自販機 jihanki for short, which is way easier to say than "vending machine", so I'll be using "jihanki") in Japan.  You'll even find vending machines next to vending machines.  But that isn't what I wanna talk about.  What I want to talk about is the mystery surrounding these wonderful machines.

Everyone who knows me in Japan knows that I have a problem with jihanki.  I spend a good 600 yen a day on drinks from these things.  But the funny thing is, even if two vending machines are around the corner from one another and have the same offerings, one will be cheaper than the other.  Sometimes it is because one is on the main street (more expensive) and one is in a side street (cheaper).  But I've seen it where the same street has the same drink for two different prices.  Weird....

Vending machines are also interesting for their drink selections themselves.  Many of them have drinks that are either hard to find in convenience stores or are sold exclusively in vending machines.  For example, the DBZ "Power Squash" shown below has only been spotted by me in a vending machine (and out of the way vending machines, at that).  Vending machines also switch their menus seasonally, offer a larger selection of hot drinks during fall and winter time (as well as many of them selling canned corn soup.............. no comment).  But caution, these supposedly "warm" drinks can burn your hands, especially the ones that come in cans.  Their best enjoyed wearing gloves.

Finally, something that happened by my place a month or two ago was sort of a mysterious happening.  There were two vending machines on the corner of the block south of me that I really liked because they had 100 yen 500ml cans of CC Lemon and Pepsi.  One day, I went to buy some CC Lemon, but it was completely sold out.  So I got a Pepsi instead.  A week or two later, I had another hankering for CC Lemon, but it was still sold out, as well as more than half of the drinks in there.  The next day, all of the display bottles and cans were taken out.  And a couple of days later, the two machines were completely taken away!!!  And they were NEVER REPLACED AGAIN (sounds like a horror story, no?).  I don't know why they were taken away.  From what I saw, they were just as popular as other machines.  There weren't any similar machines around that area.  I guess it's just one big mystery.  But in my cumulative 7 months in Japan, I've learned a couple things about vending machines:

1.) Discount 100 yen vending machines are discount for a reason.
2.) Never pass up a good deal or a rare find.  It'll be gone before you know.
3.) Super-hero themed drinks DO taste much better.
4.) Use vending machines as an opportunity to get rid of all your 10 yen coins.
5.) Never ever try to understand how the vending machine economy works.

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