A fun book about vending machines

pizzaveding ital.jpg Vending Machines is a fun book by Christopher Salyers that shows vending machines from around the world. Most of them, not surprisingly, are from Japan — back home we sell everything from cigarettes to bird feed to used panties that way — but what I appreciated most was the imagery from around the world that reflected the wants/needs/stereotypes of a culture. This is a pizza and pasta vending machine in Italy; a couple more examples after the jump.

You can buy umbrellas from a machine in East London.


This machine at Shibuya station in Tokyo sells Smart cars.


  1. Wow. That umbrella one is one of the most convenient thing I’ve ever seen. The smartcar thing, if it’s real, is just silly.

    1. Have you really never heard about those? Seeing those panties vending machines is the stereotypical “weird Japan” story that everyone tells their friends after their first visit. It’s creepy and sad, but not really any worse than the Western phone sex industry if you think about it.

  2. I would imagine a Smart Car vending machine where they were all in little plastic shells you’d pop open. Or maybe in a big pile and you use a crank to run a hook and pick one up.

  3. At first, I was just impressed with the variety of merchandise available from Japanese vending machines (whiskey, ties, cameras, noodles, and of course Pocari Sweat). I spent most of my formative years between the US (mostly soda and junk “food” machines) and Latin America (none at all), so this was… “wow”.

    But what’s *really* amazing is that the Japanese machines all WORK! By my back-of-the-napkin calculations I’ve gotten stuff from them at least 700 times, and THEY ALWAYS WORK! Every. Single. Time.

  4. “I’d like to make a vending machine that sells vending machines. It’d have to be real fuckin’ big!”

    – Mitch Hedberg

  5. from another site

    “Smart Marketing in Japan
    The clever “vending machine” pictured above is located in Japan. You can’t really buy a smart car from it, but you can get brochures and info about the various smart models. Yeah, it is anti-climactic.”

  6. The Smart vending machine does not sell cars, just pops out flyers and leaflets in a nice carton tube

  7. When I went to Japan, I was amazed by what was in vending machines. I think the first thing I found that made me laugh was the already mentioned “Pocari Sweat” (which I was never daring enough to try), but right next to it was one that served cold beer!

    I really should have taken more pictures…

  8. My favourite vending machine was the vending machine pizza parlour I used to go to.

    Well, that and the one that does DVDs.

  9. Pocari Sweat is just a gatorade-like sports drink… hence sweat, since you sweat playing sports. I don’t normally drink sports drinks but I have had Pocari Sweat and it’s not bad (not sweaty-tasting anyway)… it’s like any other sports drink, I think – you don’t really drink it for the taste.

    There are much, much, much more disgusting things (to our western tastes) you can buy to eat or drink from vending machines or convenience stores in Asia (I’ve not been to Japan but spend a lot of time in Thailand) – strangely named sports drinks are the least of your worries :)

  10. So, umm, where do the used-panties machines get their supplies?

    One imagines some dismal facility in Thailand or somesuch location, where dozens of women are paid a daily pittance to change underwear every half-hour, with the inside temperature cranked up high and the women having to do calisthenics between every change, all to enhance the funkiness. Yes, a sweatshop.

    One wants to stop imagining now. Stop, brain. Stop. Please stop. For the love of God, brain….

  11. There was a vending machine not far from where I lived in Japan that sold fresh eggs. It was pretty useless, not because the machine didn’t work, but because whenever they stocked the machine, there was already a line of people waiting, and they’d have it sold out within the hour.
    There were lots of vending machine restaurants in Tokyo, but the vending machine only takes your order. The food is prepared and served by humans.
    The Shibuya smart car thing almost had me going, because there are *lots* of clubs, “snack bars,” love hotels (often run by vending machine), and other big-cash moving enterprises, so I could see some of those guys carrying $17k-$20k in cash. But where to put the inventory…

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