Bringing vending to a higher level

 Jan, 03 - 2007   Travel

The Japanese are at the forefront of the world of automation. They’re good at manufacturing and making cool things like robots. Now that I’ve been here a couple of times, I think I’ve learned their secret–they’ve learned to embrace automation because their favorite way to buy things is through vending machines.

It’s not uncommon to see a bank of 5-10 vending machines lined up together on a Japanese street, mostly selling the usual cold drinks, with a few hot drinks thrown in. (Karen is a big fan of hot chocolate, and I suspect part of the reason she’s decided Japan is her favorite country is the ease with which we can buy it, at perfect temperature, anytime she wants it.) Occasionally, you might see cigarettes, candy, and more varied drinks for sale as well.

The big revelation for us, though, came with dinner tonight. After we sat down and looked at the menu, we tried to give the waitress our order. She demurred and pointed to the wall, where this odd little machine with about 30 buttons was sitting. Each button had a little picture of a menu item with a price. Once we chose our orders, a little ticket spat out, which we gave to the waitress, who then took it to the chef to cook. I’m not sure why this is preferable to her writing down the order, but the food that came back did look like the picture, so the system works. Japan is a funny place.

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