Bishop: JinK-san, do you ever miss the Japanese vending machines?
JinK: Yes I do. I mean, the U.S. has vending machines too, but it’s always just sugary drinks and water.
The selection is bad. And they’re often out of order or won’t take your bills.
Bishop: Also, the ones in Japan have such a great selection. Japan’s famous for having all sorts of strange
things in vending machines. I have seen ones for disposable cameras, karaage (fried chicken), French fries,
beer, and things like that. I’ve even seen ones selling batteries, eggs, rice, umbrellas, and instant ramen.
JinK: That’s true. In addition to vending machines, Japan also has unmanned vegetable sales.
Bishop: Unmanned sales?
JinK: Yes. The vegetables are lined up on the side of the road; there’s nobody there, so you put the money
in the container to buy them.
Bishop: So it’s based on the honor system?
JinK: Yes. As you know, Japan has a very low crime rate. The honor system for vegetable sales is one thing,
but even the concept of vending machines in general requires a certain level of safety to work. In a lot of
countries, people would just put the vending machine in a truck to steal the money and the goods inside it.
Bishop: Yeah. I feel really lucky to live in such a safe country. Actually, I saw something the other day that
really surprised me.
JinK: What’s that?
Bishop: The office of the client I have been working in recently has a vending machine. I noticed an interesting
plastic pocket with a pad of notes. They are for if the machine malfunctions. You can write down the date
and time of the malfunction and how much you lost. The vending machine company will then return
that amount of money in the plastic pouch.
JinK: Oh that’s interesting.
Bishop: I suppose a system like that would work in Japan, but I couldn’t imagine it working in the U.S.
or other countries. First, the person has to be honest about the malfunction. There’s nothing to stop
someone from just claiming that it malfunctioned when it didn’t really. Then, after the company puts
the 100 yen or whatever back in the pouch, everyone else using the vending machine has to be honest
and not take what doesn’t belong to them. The system doesn’t work if something goes wrong at any
of those steps.
JinK: When you put it like that, maybe Japan is a really honest country. Even if a few people were dishonest
that system would not work. The unmanned vegetable sales I mentioned are found not only in
the countryside but also in downtown Tokyo, so it’s not an issue of urban vs. rural either. I read a
statistic recently that close to 70% of wallets lost in Japan are returned to their owner, and a little less
than 40% get returned with all of the money intact.
Bishop: That’s pretty amazing. Why is Japan like that?
JinK: Hmmm good question. Of course, I think people put themselves in the shoes of the person who
lost their wallet. But aside from that, there’s a strong feeling that you will receive divine punishment
if you take things that belong to other people. Japanese believe that there are spirits inside everything,
and money is no exception. People are always very conscious of where the money belongs. People feel
guilty using money which doesn’t belong to them. Though this is true of lots of things, not just money.
Bishop: What do you mean?
JinK: For example, there are a lot of people who use the space in front of my garage to make unauthorized
U-turns. This sort of thing doesn’t really happen in Japan. It’s thought that entering into others’ property
is a nuisance. In the U.S., people do what they want to do. That’s a good thing in many ways, but
sometimes it goes too far. I suppose if it becomes a problem you’re supposed to just call the police.
Bishop: I suppose so. But that’s really hard to believe, that money gets returned with nobody stealing it.
JinK: Well, why don’t you try it at the office vending machine?
Bishop: I really do want to try it, but the machine never malfunctions…
JinK: Ah, that’s true. Come to think of it, I’ve rarely seen a broken vending machine in Japan either.
Fact#20. Japan has all sorts of strange things in vending machines, even unmanned sales.
by Bishop & JinK.
PS. Please feel free to make comments below if you have comments or questions about the facts between the US and Japan or on each country. We will incorporate your questions in one of the subtle, but amazing facts, if that would be helpful for you to understand cultural differences between the two countries. Any subtle, but amazing facts between your country and the US/Japan would be also welcome.