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Strange Vending Machines That Japanese People Find Surprising

Deserved or not, Japan has long had a reputation for its weird vending machines. What do Japanese people think about vending machines in other countries?

Strange Vending Machines That Japanese People Find Surprising
[Photo: Hidehiko Sakashita/Getty Images]

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

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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” (日本人もびびる)–which has been viewed several hundred thousand times already–vortexxx 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 U.S. $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 U.S. $40). The cans are small, only 5-6 centimeters in diameter. How much for the biggest can, about 10 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:

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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.


This story originally appeared at Global Voices. Follow Nevin Thompson at @nevin_thompson.