You know that unofficial London rule about never being further than six feet from a rat? In Japan, you can substitute rodent with vending machine. The 24-hour machines are an essential part of Japanese life – there’s roughly one machine for every 23 people, according to recent figures – and they’re not only stocked with food, drink or essentials; they also carry things that you might not expect to see anywhere else. Here are some of the oddest picks that can be found.
Why have fresh bread when you can eat it straight from the can? Equally, why have bread-flavoured bread when you can eat dough that tastes like chocolate chip, green tea or milk? Some cans are even cartoon-themed.
In those moments when you’re heading home and realised you don’t have eggs for breakfast the next morning, these egg vending machines are heaven sent. Don’t worry – the signs usually state that they’re fresh. Just handle them carefully as they're normally in bags, not boxes.
Police have tried to crack down on them, but you can still find vending machines shopping legal and legally dubious hallucinogens that claim to imitate cannabis or, in some cases (at least, according to the police), may even contain the real thing.
You may not have been a fan of the surgical mask before you got to Japan, but once you’ve been there a while you may find yourself wanting to fit in a little with the germaphobe (and pollution sensitive) locals. Luckily you don’t need to know how to ask for one in Japanese – you can just find a vending machine near you.
Condom machines are so passé; Japanese love hotels also have vending machines for sex toys, for those wanting to spice things up but too coy to buy one in person.
Perfect for those commutes after a long, hard day, when all you need is a cold beer – but you don’t have time to stop for a real drink in a bar. There’s no need to suffer beer in a can with these on-tap machines.
Tokyo pet shops have been dragged for their “puppy vending machines”, though they’re really clear plastic boxes piled up outside the storefront, with a price for each pet. For something less morally dubious and also legitimate, the more adventurous among you may find a dog wig vending machine, because nothing suits your dog better than a blonde bob or a pink punk mohican.
Vending machines packed with used women’s knickers may be an urban legend, but if they are, that’s because plenty of vending machines hawk underwear with photos of women subjecting them to heavy wear and tear, with the word “used” beside them. In this context, it means “distressed” but new. Even so, as a concept, it’s a new one to us.
Why tip a barista to drizzle your cappuccino froth (not that you’ll be tipping in Japan, of course) in an artistic way when there's a machine at Tokyo’s Haneda airport that will print a woman’s face on your drink instead? Not that, if these examples are anything to go by, it’s worth a tip…
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