Because the World Cup final started at stupid o'clock, the day began earlier than usual. Fortunately, Japan's vending machines stock a continual supply of canned coffee -- and some of them aren't half-bad. It's no AeroPress, but then, prices start at a dollar.
Better still, vending machines transition between heated and cooled coffee, depending on the season. No need to ask for nonfat milk or an extra espresso shot. Time saved!
Next, it's the other side of Tokyo at Harajuku station, where these giant touchscreen machines take residence. As previously reported, there's a camera embedded that attempts to gauge incoming customers and offer up recommendations depending on weather and (we think) gender. Sports drinks were advised, and at 29 C (84 F), I agreed. Cost: 150 yen.
With the WiFi connection inside (no, it won't tell you the password), it picks up weather data and keeps it connected to drinks vendors, ensuring commuters never run out of Pocari Sweat (god forbid).
According to The Bridge, feedback from these kinds of vending machines can have a direct effect on how they're marketed. Apple juice that a drinks company thought was aimed at woman was suddenly a hit with men, and the company then changed the packaging to suit.
Because it's a giant digital window, out-of-stock products simply disappear, and the machine doubles up on a product to fill the space. Oh and there's a contactless card-payment option on about half of Japan's vending machines. Because we're not primitives.
Finally something a little different. Harajuku is where fashion imploded on itself, so it's probably not a shock to see hair accessories on sale alongside mineral water. This is an entirely Toni & Guy-branded vending machine, right outside their salon. Target audience: people.
Urban myth? Outright lie? No, the burger vending machine does exist, and it spits out burgers for 100 yen apiece. How does it do that? And do you really want to eat a "vending machine burger"?
"If a burger doesn't come out, please press this button."
There's a reason that this vending machine's title includes a question mark. It's not exactly all-machine. Peeping inside the premises (yeah, it's a burger shop) reveals a shelf just behind the machine. The owner does the cooking, and entering your 100 yen simply tells him to cook up another burger. We'll admit, we're a little heartbroken, but we were also far more willing to eat the burger.
Wait, they have a premium (three times the price) "Royal Burger"? I feel like a fool.
We didn't think hair clips were going to cut it, so we headed to the Toy Park, an expansive toy store that, conveniently, has a wall outside dedicated to 24-hour soft-toy retailing.
The selection is admittedly a little limited, weighing heavily in the stuffed-animals-for-small-kids-because-dad-forgot-to-get-something-on-his-trip-to-Tokyo category.
That being said, we'd take a Totoro plushie.
6,000 yen? That's 60 cans of coffee.
Hidden on the corner of a KFC deep within otaku mecha Akihabara, there's this 1,000 yen "treasure" vending machine. It's pretty much gambling -- $10 gambling.
But look at what I could win. A new watch? Wait, is that a 3DS? I gave it a try, in the interests of journalism.
What is this?
A flashlight. Gambling is bad. The thing is crazy bright, but it's certainly no 3DS. We've learned our lesson.
And so we head to drown our sorrows. Near Tokyo station, this "bar" has no staff, although the owner's son occasionally mans a snack stall in the back. It's (more than) a little rough around the edges, but there are around 15 types of beer, multiple fruity cocktails and even some (cheap!) Japanese sake that could probably strip the paint from the walls. There's no age checking here, just a handful of signs saying that drinking isn't for minors. While Japan is at the forefront of testing out vending-machine face recognition, there are still some kinks to be worked out.
It might just be a lineup of vending machines and a smoking area, but this place has its own page on Foursquare and on other food- and drinks-listing sites. If a salaryman regular is feeling exotic, they even have Guinness.
We spotted this sake "tasting" machine at a recent food technology exhibition. It uses a special kind of lighting to ensure the bottle contents don't spoil. You pick your poison, and it'll deliver your choice in a tiny tasting cup. It's pretty rare to find alcohol served from larger bottles in Japan.
Google put these machines on show in Shibuya for a limited time. They served as an introduction to Android's gaming selection in a country where the iPhone pretty much dominates.
Even if it was only for a week, one pet food maker decided to bring the vending machine concept to man's best friend. As it was a promotion and all, there was no money required, just a lickable, sniffable button.