Sunday, August 1, 2021
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From Tiny Furniture to COVID Tests: Vending Machines in Japan Offer More Than Just Chips & Soda



While U.S. athletes might be used to refueling with a snack or refreshment from a vending machine, they will find many more goodies from the machines around the Summer Olympics’ host country.

With over five million vending machines, or approximately one machine for every 23 people, Japan has the highest density of self-service kiosks in the world.

But they don’t just sell beverages and snacks.

Many machines sell “gashapon,” or miniature toys like tiny chairs or blenders. The $3 toy beetles are especially popular with children. The kiosks also sell Polaroid cameras and toy cars.

Most parts of Japan are hit by an early summer rainy season, making the umbrella kiosks particularly useful.

NBC’s “Today” show co-anchor and co-host of the Opening Ceremony, Savannah Gutherie, was elated to find a Hello Kitty products vending machine in Tokyo. Gutherie shared her discovery in an Instagram post, writing that her inner 8-year-old is “squealing.”

A variety of foods and drinks are also available. While some athletes might opt for the vending machines offering bananas and apples, curry is also available. For $2 you can buy fresh popcorn, and for $5 you can get a mystery box, which usually includes a snack. Milk vending machines are especially popular, with many different flavors including milk coffee.

Other vending machines provide more practical items. Saliva PCR COVID-19 testing kits are available for purchase, as are contraceptives.

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