Japan Vending Machine Guide: How to Use Japanese Vending Machines

Visiting Japan is an exciting experience filled with unique cultural encounters, one of which is the ubiquitous vending machine. From busy city streets to quiet countryside corners, these machines offer a variety of products from drinks and snacks to hot meals and even clothing. However, using a Japanese vending machine can be daunting for first-time visitors. This guide will help you understand how to use these fascinating machines and make your trip even more enjoyable.


Why Japanese Vending Machines Are Unique

Japanese vending machines, or “jidouhanbaiki,” are known for their convenience and variety. Unlike many countries where vending machines are limited to drinks and snacks, in Japan, you can find machines selling everything from fresh produce to high-end electronics. This wide range of products, coupled with the machines’ availability 24/7, makes them an integral part of daily life in Japan.

Step-by-Step Guide to Using a Japanese Vending Machine

Finding a Vending Machine

Vending machines are everywhere in Japan. You’ll find them in train stations, hotel lobbies, street corners, parks, and even in remote areas. Look for machines with a wide range of products to explore the full spectrum of what Japanese vending machines offer.

Choosing Your Product

Most vending machines have a clear glass front, so you can see the available products. Drinks are usually categorized by color: blue labels for cold drinks and red labels for hot drinks. Products are displayed with prices, making it easy to choose.

Inserting Money

Japanese vending machines typically accept coins (10, 50, 100, and 500 yen) and 1000 yen bills. Some advanced machines also accept IC cards like Suica and Pasmo, as well as credit cards. Insert your money into the appropriate slot. The machine will display the amount you’ve inserted and the price of the item.

Making Your Selection

Once you’ve inserted enough money, press the button corresponding to the item you want. The button will usually have a picture of the product and its price. In some machines, especially those offering a large variety of products, the buttons may be on a touchscreen interface.

Collecting Your Item

After making your selection, your item will drop into the collection tray at the bottom of the machine. Retrieve your item promptly to avoid any confusion.

Receiving Change

If you inserted more money than the cost of your item, the machine will dispense your change. Look for the change slot, usually located near the coin insertion slot.

When using an IC card, press the purchase button for the product before tapping your card on the card reader.

Tips for Using Japanese Vending Machines

  • Understanding Labels: Some vending machines provide product information in English, but many do not. Familiarize yourself with basic Japanese terms for food and beverages. For example, “mizu” (水) means water, and “ocha” (お茶) means tea.
  • Specialty Vending Machines: Explore unique vending machines that offer items like ramen, ice cream, or even umbrellas. These machines can be a fun and practical part of your travel experience.

Common Questions

What if the machine takes my money but doesn’t dispense the product?

This is rare, but if it happens, look for a contact number on the machine to report the issue. Many machines have a customer service hotline.

Does the vending machine always dispense the product I select?

Yes, Japanese vending machines are very reliable and always dispense the product you select.

Are the insides of vending machines clean?

Yes! Japanese vending machines are very popular and products are frequently restocked. During restocking, the machines are also cleaned, ensuring they are very hygienic and safe to use.


Japanese vending machines are more than just a way to buy a quick drink—they are a cultural experience in themselves. By understanding how to use these machines, you can enhance your travel experience and enjoy the convenience and variety they offer. Don’t be afraid to explore and try new things; Japanese vending machines are designed to be user-friendly and fun.

Enjoy your journey through Japan, and happy vending!

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