Vending machines in Japan scatter the sidewalks, street corners and niches of hotels, stores and sometimes restaurants. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and uses as well. The most common ones serve a variety of 30+ drinks ranging from sports drinks, to sodas, to coffee and more. Various ones even allowed you to select whether you wanted the drink hot or cold. Once I selected a hot coffee and I could barely hold the metal can that it came out in because it was surprisingly hot. My favorite of this type was the “Boss” brand that used Tommy Lee Jones as their spokesman.
Some of the more unique, but less common machines vended items such as beer, cigarettes and ice cream cones. I really enjoyed the ice cream cones and we frequented the beer machines where we could choose from a varied selection in normal and tall boy sizes.
Exclusive machines we found were used in a variety of ways. One we saw sold disposable cameras at a tourist spot, another sold toilet paper for the public restroom, a few sold fortunes at Buddhist temples, one sold hot cups of noodles, others commonly sold tickets to enter a public bath or onsen, while their cousins were placed at the entrances of restaurants where you would buy a ticket corresponding to the dish you wanted to eat.
Never did we have to shake a snack out or fight a machine to accept our crinkled up dollar bill. Vending machines are distinctively Japanese and we in the US have not even scratched the surface of their true potential.