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Japanese vending machines are at the forefront of a convenience renaissance, and no nation will ever be able to catch up. There are 5.52 million vending machines in Japan, according to the nation’s tourism board. For reference, that means more vending machines than sushi restaurants and Playstation 4s. You’ll find Japanese vending machines that can tell you the weather, help you take a selfie, or use facial recognition software to guess your age and gender and then offer a personalized beverage recommendation.
Kotaku credits the rise of vending machines in Japan to the country’s population boom after World War II. They offered vendors, especially beverage companies, an easy way to expand their product’s reach.
Since vending machines are now a key part of the country’s retail infrastructure, people are accustomed to not only seeing vending machines, but using them. At this point, it’s less that vending machines are popular, and more that they are interwoven into Japanese society.
The most fascinating Japanese vending machines
1) Flying Fish Soup
Fish soup, anyone? As A Geek in Japan explains, each bottle contains a grilled flying fish and some algae. Said concoction can be used to flavor udon or any other slow-cooked recipe.
2) Self-freezing bottled Coca-Cola
7-Eleven customers in Japan can treat themselves a Coca-Cola that freezes into a slushie instantly before their eyes. Pointless? Perhaps, but the shock value alone is worth the spare yen.
There’s always money in the banana stand…
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When you’re caught in the middle of a storm or are prone to accidentally leaving your umbrella behind on the subway, Japan’s umbrella vending machines are sure to be a lifesaver.
Perfect for when you need to whip up an emergency 12-egg omelet.
While other Japanese vending machines serve up complex meals on-the-go and a wide array of niche products, these orange juice vending machines keep it simple across both Japan and China. Vitamin C isn’t always readily available on the streets, but IMO, it should be.
If you thought drive-throughs were convenient, why not try a hamburger vending machine? Check out the full video of how this Japanese hamburger vending machine works below.
This Ramen vending machine would be perfect for days when you’re nursing a cold or a hangover.
9) Energy drinks and condoms
A vending machine for condoms and a vending machine for energy drinks, side by side. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
10) Sushi socks
Why eat sushi when you can just wear it on your feet?
11) Surgical masks
Japan has air quality issues, so these surgical mask vending machines are surprisingly helpful.
Owning a pet probably shouldn’t be an impulsive decision. If you’re the type to grab a Ho Ho at the office vending machine and later regret it, that’s one thing. But it might be tough for anyone to try and stay away from this puppy-filled Japanese vending machine.
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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.