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Vending Machines Around the World that Japanese People Find Surprising

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Russia, Citizen Media, Humor
Russian vending machines

“Here's a vending machine in a mall for buying Likes for your Instagram pics.” — Alexey Kovalev, Global Voices Russia Editor. Image courtesy Vasily Sonkin.

Deserved or not, Japan has long had a reputation for being the home of weird and wacky vending machines [1]. What is not as commonly understood, however, is what Japanese people think about vending machines in other countries.

One member of Naver Matome, a popular Japanese blogging site, decided to find out. In an post titled “Vending Machines That Even Japanese People Are Surprised By [2]” (日本人もびびる) — which has been viewed several hundred thousand times already — vortexxx [3] collected a series of images posted by Japanese Twitter users.

Russia leads the pack

The first photo of a remarkable vending machine (at least from a Japanese point of view) is from Hitoki Nakagawa, the Vladivostok bureau chief for Asahi Shimbun, a well respected daily newspaper. The machine in his photo sells ultra-expensive caviar:

I'm at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on my way back to Vladivostok. And what's before me but a caviar vending machine. While it's sold out today, there is one super expensive kind worth 20,000 rubles, which based on today's exchange rate is about 40,000 yen (about US$400). While I'd never feed it to a cat, I wonder if anyone ever buys such luxury goods here.

Caviar vending machines seemed to spark interest among many Japanese social media users. Here, someone else found a machine that sold slightly cheaper products:

A caviar vending machine at the airport in Moscow. The cheapest variety costs 2,000 rubles, about 4,000 yen (approximately US$40). The cans are small, only 5-6 centimeters in diameter. How much for the biggest can, about ten centimeters across? I forget the price, it was too expensive. (´Д` )

I didn't buy anything, just snapped a photo.

Some Japanese travelers also noticed vending machines selling patriotic Russian kitsch:

As a heavy user of Sheremetyevo airport I recommend checking out the ‘President Putin T-Shirt vending machine’.

Others remarked on how practical some of the vending machines were:

In Russia, there's a vending machine in a 24-hour supermarket that sells contact lenses… Super useful!

The most noteworthy vending machine of all was one that sold space food:

I discovered this at the airport in Moscow. A ‘space food vending machine’ that sells borscht, beef and buckwheat soup, dried fruit kompot and other foods sold in a tube as space food for 400 rubles.

Unique vending machines in other countries

The Naver Matome blog post also collected a few Twitter posts of other vending machines around the world that Japanese travelers found interesting. One vending machine in Germany sold Lego:

A Lego vending machine! Germany is awesome! (*☻-☻*)

Another, in Italy, provoked pangs of hunger:

Here's a pizza vending machine in Italy! Now I want to eat pizza!

One of the most unusual vending machines, which a Japanese Twitter user observed in the United States, sells something that can only be bought in certain places in the country: pot.

A medical marijuana vending machine in Seattle. Prices start from $1

More vending machines from around the world can be found at Naver Matome [2].