Sometimes I think that Japan should change it's motto from 'The Land of the Rising Sun' to 'The Land of Vending Machines'. This is because everywhere you go, you're able to find them. Some sit outside of a person's house while others might sit in front of a grocery store. Then sometimes you will see a whole lot of them, all in one spot.
I once talked about bottles and bottle sizes almost a year ago on one of my first TWJ episode (#3 if you're curious). I would have to guess, this is the first time, I have talked about the machines that dispense glorious items. And man, do they dispense a lot of different things.
The most common vending machines you will find are for drinks; coffee, tea, water, pop, or juice. The thing that is nice about a lot of these machines, is that if you want a warm can of coffee or tea; you can get it. This is great when it's really cold outside.
The second most common vending machine is that is one for cigarettes. The question Americans might raise is "how can this be possible? What about the children?" Well, the Japanese have a special card you must sign up for that has an RFID tag inside of it. You swipe the card in front of a designated area and you are now able to purchase cigarettes. Following a cigarette machine comes the beer vending machine. Some of them operate in the same fashion as cancer stick machine while others are old and require no proof of age whatsoever. These machines are a bit rare and most shut off past a certain time. Also, they are less common in bigger cities.
On the flip side, bigger cities have stranger vending machines. It's nice to find the ice cream machines on a hot summers day. I have heard that there are also vending machines that dispense a nice bowl of ramen (I wish this one was outside my apartment). As strange as this sounds, vending machines in Japan get even weirder.
I've heard there are ones that sell clothes and everyday items. Almost like a small convenience store. One of these would be handy to have nearby if, say for example, you needed soap and everything near you was closed, which I can understand. Most of these machines are pretty tame but, again of course, this is Japan and I have heard they get even more bizarre. There are few but I have heard stories of 'used panty' vending machines. Which is pretty creepy. I wouldn't want to see the people that routinely visit it.
It's nice to see the influence of a vending machine nation effect your home country. Before leaving the US, I remember I saw vending machines selling none food items on the rise. These were in places like airports or other heavily trafficked areas, like a mall. These machines seemed to sell items of entertainment like video games, movies, or iPods. This is handy if you're stuck on a lay over, have a computer and some spare time on your hands. Even the whole 'redbox' idea seemed to take a page from Japan.
That's about all I have to say on the vending machine subject. If I find any that are far different, I will be sure to post pictures.