Vending machines are a familiar sight in Japan, dotting both urban landscapes and quieter rural settings. These machines don’t just offer food and drinks; you can even find ones selling items like SIM cards, umbrellas, and baby diapers.
In this guide, I'll share some information on how to purchase drinks from these vending machines. While the process is generally the same across different types of vending machines, we'll focus on beverage machines since they're the most widespread.
Two main methods of payment are available: cash (both coins and notes) and IC Cards. Some machines also accept credit cards, though these remain relatively rare.
Most vending machines in Japan primarily accept coins and the 1000 yen note. Here’s how you go about using them:
Vending machines in Japan often have bright and attractive designs, making them easy to find. Some only offer cold drinks, others hot beverages, and some provide both.
Before you make a purchase, look at the available options. Drinks are typically displayed at their actual size with prices labeled beneath them. This helps you know how much cash you'll need.
Depending on whether you have coins or a note, find the appropriate slot and insert your money. Ensure your cash are flat and not crumpled, so the machine can recognize them.
Nearby, you should see a display screen that shows the total amount you’ve put in, letting you know if you need to add more.
After you’ve inserted enough money, press the button corresponding to your chosen beverage. If the button is lit, you can make the purchase.
However, if there’s a cross over the button, it means that particular drink is out of stock. If the button doesn't light up or shows a red color, you might need to insert additional money.
Once you've made your selection, your drink will drop to a collection area at the bottom of the machine. Open the compartment to retrieve it. If you overpaid, the machine would dispense the required change, which can be collected from a designated slot.
An IC Card is a digital payment card primarily designed for public transportation. However, its versatility extends beyond just train or bus rides. In Japan, you can use IC Cards like Suica, Pasmo, and ICOCA to purchase items from certain vending machines.
Though vending machines that accept IC Cards might be fewer in number compared to those that take cash, they provide an added layer of convenience for those who prefer cashless transactions.
Interestingly, if a vending machine accepts IC Card payments, it's guaranteed to accept cash as well, ensuring all customers can use the machine regardless of their preferred payment method.
Ensure the machine has a card reader for IC Card transactions. If you don't see one, the machine likely doesn't accept IC Card payments. Check for logos near the card reader to know which IC Cards the machine accepts, as not all machines cater to every card type.
Press the button for the beverage you want. Ensure the cost of the drink doesn't exceed the balance on your IC Card.
When you're ready to purchase, place your IC Card close to the card reader on the machine. Make sure to hold the card there until the machine deducts the required amount and releases the drink.
Once the drink is dispensed, your transaction is done, and you can pull your card away. Collect your drink from the compartment at the bottom of the machine.
We've all been there: you insert your money, but then you change your mind. Don't worry – it's easy to cancel your purchase on most vending machines as long as you haven't selected a drink yet.
To get your money back, simply press the lever or button usually located near where you inserted your coins or notes. Upon pressing, your money will be returned in the change compartment located at the bottom of the machine.
At first glance, vending machines might seem a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, they're straightforward and user-friendly. You might even find yourself regularly grabbing a drink on the go from these machines. So, give it a try and enjoy the convenience they offer!