News On Japan

Japan's Retro Vending Machine Theme Park

KANAGAWA, Mar 02 (News On Japan) - Japan's vending machines, a charm for foreign tourists, are now drawing crowds to a famous spot where over 100 retro machines from the Showa era are lined up.

In Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, there's a "theme park" filled with valuable vending machines from the Showa era. Despite its somewhat inconvenient location, it now attracts tourists from all over the world.

A tourist shared, "I'm from Brazil. I'm trying to decide which vending machine to use and what to eat. There are just too many options."

The allure of this place lies in its impressive lineup. The machines stretch for about 100 meters, with 112 units, including some unusual ones.

A man from Brazil chose a nostalgic bottled cola: "Very good. Nowadays, most are plastic bottles. The glass bottles make the taste feel better."

Many Japanese people might feel the same way.

"Can't Read, But Can Buy?" Confused Visitors

A tourist from America mentioned, "I learned about this place on the internet. There's nowhere else in the world with so many vending machines. I've wanted to come here for three years but couldn't make it until now."

One vending machine that caught his interest was for a ham and cheese toast, heated to 250°C inside the machine and ready in just 40 seconds. How was the long-awaited toast?

A tourist from America exclaimed, "It's delicious! But... it seems I pressed the wrong button. This is tuna."

A mix-up led to tuna toast instead.

The same tourist added, "But it's not bad."

However, most of the old machines lack English labels, causing confusion for foreign visitors.

A tourist from Canada asked, "How can I tell which drinks are available for purchase?" and "Is this one sold out? I've got it now."

They also struggled with understanding the "change shortage" light.

Announcer Sayaka Masuda explained, "It's hard to explain the 'change shortage' light. If you put in the exact amount, it should work. 180 exactly, okay, but also 200..."

The Canadian tourist remarked, "That's a lot."

Amazed by Hot Burgers: "Magical Machines"

A couple, David and Jamie, came from America.

David shared, "A friend named Charles sent us a video."

Jamie thanked, "Thank you, Charles."

David continued, "Thanks, Charles. We saw the video and thought, 'Wow! We have to go see this.' We wondered if these old machines would still work..."

The couple was intrigued by a hamburger vending machine made 52 years ago.

David exclaimed, "Look at this! It's counting down."

Jamie added, "Our burgers! Cute."

David asked, "Is it warm?"

Jamie replied, "Yes, touch it."

David confirmed, "Oh, it's hot."

The hot burgers were unbelievable.

David noted, "In America, there are no vending machines that sell hot items. Not even hot coffee."

Jamie marveled, "It's amazing that such old machines are still working."

David concluded, "It's like magic. And they're outside, not indoors."

Moreover, a popcorn vending machine made over 30 years ago...

Jamie noted, "It even plays music."

David offered, "Here, baby, this is pretty hot."

Jamie announced, "The popcorn is ready."

David reflected, "This place is incredible, like a walkable museum. Truly wonderful."

The couple's final interest was in an unexpected vending machine.

David wondered, "Japanese fortune-telling (omikuji)?"

Indeed, there's a fortune-telling machine available for 100 yen.

David observed, "It's full of writing."

But what was the fortune?

David admitted, "I can't read it at all."

For the record, it was "suekichi," a small blessing. The filming crew explained the meaning.

David joked, "A small lucky, almost unlucky."

Jamie lamented, "Oh no!"

Vending Machine Situations Around the World: Unique to Each Country

A man from Thailand said, "Japan's vending machines are definitely at the forefront of the world."

A man from Australia shared, "I found a vending machine that sells both hot and cold drinks and thought, 'What?! Seriously?!' It's rare to find one that sells hot drinks."

A man from Brazil expressed, "We want Japan's vending machines in our country. They're super convenient, cheap, and everywhere."

This raises the question: what kinds of vending machines are there overseas? Tracking them down, we found that each country has its own unique vending machine situation.

A man from Germany revealed, "In Germany, there are vending machines that sell sausages."

On a residential street in Germany, a vending machine offers not only sausages but also eggs, sauces, and a variety of other items, like a small store. There's a specific reason for this in Germany.

The same man explained, "There are no convenience stores in Germany. It's legally difficult to work at night in Germany. So there are vending machines without clerks."

In Germany, where labor from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. is generally prohibited, vending machines with a wide range of products are increasing to compensate for the lack of convenience stores.

In America, Cupcakes and Cars!?

Here's a couple from America.

An American woman stated, "In America, there are vending machines for cupcakes."

A high-tech vending machine installed by an American cupcake specialty store features a touch panel and electronic payment. According to the photographer, in New York, many people eat cupcakes as a late-night snack, so the 24-hour vending machine is popular.

Furthermore, there's information about a vending machine on an American scale.

The same woman revealed, "There's a vending machine for cars."

A car vending machine!? A used car sales company installed a gigantic 8-story "vending machine." You select a car on a dedicated website and prepay. You then receive a coin, which you insert into the "vending machine," and the car is automatically delivered to the exit. You can then drive it home.

An American man commented, "I don't know anyone who has actually bought a car from this 'vending machine.'"

Vending Machines with Changing Prices: Canada

Suddenly, it's time for an "Overseas Vending Machine Quiz."

A man from Canada claimed, "In my country, there are vending machines where the prices change daily."

A vending machine in Canada that changes prices. Can you guess what it sells?

The same man estimated, "It's about 75 cents or 1 dollar on weekdays, and 1 dollar 50 cents or 2 dollars on weekends."

The price goes up on weekends because it gets "thicker." Have you figured it out yet?

The answer is a newspaper vending machine.

The Canadian man explained, "The weekend edition is more expensive because it has more pages."

While Japan also has them, the price is the same every day.

Originating from a Spirit of Service to Customers: Developing New Products

The "Retro Vending Machine Theme Park," bustling with customers from overseas.

Tatsuyo Saito (51), who operates the retro vending machines, shared, "It's definitely a pleasure to see more customers from abroad. We've made it enjoyable for everyone from the elderly to children, so it's fun to see foreigners surprised and buying things."

Mr. Saito's main business is running a used tire shop next door.

Saito said, "In my main business, customers have to wait while we change tires. I thought it would be nice if they could enjoy some food while waiting, so I installed a few machines. Everyone seemed happy, so I got carried away and added more and more..."

It all started with a spirit of service to customers. Mr. Saito purchases retro vending machines through online auctions and uses his technical skills to repair them himself. He has steadily increased their number, and now his reputation has spread worldwide.

He also makes a large variety of vending machine gourmet food by hand.

Saito remarked, "I'm too busy to think, so I just have to do it."

With the increasing number of customers, he's concerned about selling out and has mobilized staff from the tire shop and acquaintances to help prepare the food.

An employee joked, "We're a 'do-anything' shop."

Eager to delight the growing number of foreign visitors even more, Mr. Saito is also developing new products.

Saito revealed, "It's a handmade lunch box, but when you buy it, it comes out warm. If an old machine delivers a lunch box, people will be like, 'What!?'"

This is Mr. Saito's first attempt at a handmade lunch box, focusing on brand pork from Okinawa as the main ingredient.

Saito explained, "I tried it on a frying pan at first,

but it didn't work out, so I thought it might be better to grill it on a proper iron plate."

"When I asked how much the newly acquired item cost, he replied, '80,000 yen.'"

"And when asked about his main profession, he confirmed, 'I run a tire shop.'"

After about 100 trial runs and spending over 300,000 yen, he completed a Showa-inspired hamburger lunch box.

Saito expressed, "I want to make it enjoyable for people from overseas as well."

Japan's ever-evolving vending machines continue to deliver smiles and surprises to the world today.

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