Vending machines fill in for a labor shortage in Japan

By Xinyi (Ethel) Jiang
Medill Reports

Tourists are often surprised by the large number of vending machines in Japan. “When you are thirsty, you always have something to drink, because there are vending machines for everything,” said visitor Angelica Spadaro.

There are more than 5.5 million vending machines in Japan — one for every 23 people. It’s the highest ratio in the world. The machines sell everything from tampons to cigarettes.

With Japan’s aging population, low crime-rate and obsession for automation, the proliferation of vending machines says a lot about the country’s unique culture.

“A Japan without vending machines cannot be called Japan,” said Qui Suiyu, a Chinese graduate student who was born in Japan. “That’s how I feel. It is a signature of Japan.”

Photo at top: Visitors in Japan are using vending machines at Tokyo’s “Electronic Town” Akihabara. Feb. 11, 2018. (Xinyi Jiang/MEDILL)