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A Few Coins Now Buy Much More Than Soft Drinks
September 5, 2000
Recently, computerized terminals that sell theater and concert tickets, boarding passes for airplanes and bullet trains, and package tours have appeared. Areas with several of these machines grouped together are becoming familiar sights. But the ultimate use of these dispensers could be the vending-machine supermarket. Here, customers select items to be purchased just through machines. After making their selections, the receipts are tallied and items paid for at a cash register.
In response to a decision by a union of approximately 130,000 alcoholic-beverage dealers to remove some 150,000 outdoor vending machines to prevent underage drinking, vending-machine makers discontinued production of conventional machines and switched to the new model that can distinguish the user's age.
Machines selling music are also being developed. Songs distributed via the Internet is selected from the terminal's touch-panel screen and then recorded on a mini-disk. Though the machines are still in the trial stage, their release, planned for autumn 2000, will offer tunes for 200 yen (1.8 dollars) each.
Even "encounters" are being sold. For 200 yen, users can purchase a capsule containing a personal introduction and message from an individual who has preregistered with a production company. Buyers can then write a response and send it to the company, which then forwards it to the original person. Other unusual vending machines include those selling toys, fresh vegetables, and information on flea markets.
This explosion in vending machines may appear to be strong evidence supporting the myth that Japan is a safe country. Recently, however, theft of change from vending machines using counterfeit or cheap foreign coins has become rampant, and even violent acts, where machines are carried off with a bulldozer, have also increased. With some also criticizing the wasteful way in which the machines consume electricity around the clock, the heyday for vending machines in Japan may be numbered.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.