Sunday, June 8, 2008

Japanese Vending Machines

Japan is vending machine heaven. One of the conveniences of Japan is that there are vending machines everywhere, and stats say there's one for every 20 people. They're called "jidohambaïki," but most people refer to them as "jihanki." It seems like every store has at least two of them in front, but you will also find them in the middle of nowhere. I've seen pictures of them on mountains on the way to temples. They're just sitting there with nothing around them but trees. In America this would never work because they would all be broken into in about two seconds, but here there are virtually no crimes like that, so they are all over. Driving to Costco yesterday I saw a Boss jihanki with Tommy Lee Jones on it. His picture was right there next to a can of coffee!

They sell everything from drinks (hot and cold), to magazines, cigarettes and beer...and did I mention they are everywhere? Perhaps the most bizarre thing about them is that when you buy something the machine thanks you in a woman’s voice - and not just any “thank you,” but the most humble and polite version of “thank you” possible. The LCD also shows a woman bowing to you. No, I take it back, the most bizarre thing is that many people bow back to the machine after buying something. Thanks to a clever mechanism inside, it'll switch between hot and cold according to the season: while almost all drinks will be cold in the summer, the same vending machine will sell hot drinks in the winter. And if you don't have cash on you to pay for what you like, most machines have a scanner, and you can pay using your cell phone!

The funniest thing I've seen or heard of when it comes to vending machines has to do with train tickets. There's a button there for assistance, and if you need help, a person will pop out from behind it to help you! A woman who taught part of our AOB/ICR (Area Orientation Brief/Intercultural Relations) showed us this exact picture. She jokingly told us that the men behind the ticket machines are sleeping, and to press the assist button as a last resort! To avoid that, we bought Suica cards. It's basically a debt card
for the train. Scan the card and it deducts the fare. Before Bob left we put plenty of credit on mine so that I wouldn't find myself in the predicament you see to the right!

Cigarette jihanki are only seen in antique stores in the U.S. these days, but they are still used in here where the legal age to buy them is twenty. Don't you think there are kids trying to buy cigarettes from jihanki that are under 20 years old? I would think so. But this is the land of technological breakthroughs. Recently they've come up with cigarette jihanki that are designed to sell to people over the stipulated age limit. How do they manage to accomplish this? Well these clever new machines take a picture of your face and then the computer analyses the wrinkles, bone structure and saggy skin of your face. How crazy is that?! Supposedly there's a 90% accuracy with the system so far, the other 10% are those adults that have aged well might experience problems (take it as a compliment), although if the scan doesn’t verify you can still insert your driver’s
license. The computer runs your visage against about 100, 000 possible others and make the decision based on that data. Not sure about you, but I think that's pretty impressive. You can read all about it by clicking here.

The new machine comes in the wake of the government issuing a warning that vending companies will be prosecuted if they sell their cigs to minors. Thus the super-scanner-cig-machine. Up until now “careless” vending machines have been chucking out cigarettes to anyone regardless of their age, this is pretty bad considering the legal age is 20.


Kelipso said...

Man I read this whole entry to Curtis. Everything is SO different over there! Facial recognition?! Guys sticking their heads out of little boxes to help you?! CRAZY! hehehe

Eazy vend said...

Nice Vending machine looking like Robort. It’s Great idea to sell the Coke. Thanks….
Drinks Vending Machine

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