Home News Vending machines are beginning to be used in Japan. Their number is...

Vending machines are beginning to be used in Japan. Their number is about to exceed several million.


The vending machine at Hiroshi Nishitani’s Tokyo Ramen has been running reliably for a decade. Customers put money into it and it prints out their order while Hiroshi Nishitani makes fresh noodles in the kitchen. After customers hand their order to the two chefs at the counter, the food arrives within minutes.

But the machines are running out of time. Japan is set to introduce a new set of banknotes this summer. Every 20 years Mr Nishitani said the machine was too old to accept recent coin designs and would not accept the new notes.

“There’s nothing wrong with the vending machine,” he said, expressing frustration at having to buy a costly new machine compatible with the new banknotes.

Restaurants, cafeterias, bathhouses and other businesses across Japan face a similar prospect. 4.1 million Sales of vending machines have reached 10 million, according to industry report database Nikkei. Many will be phased out in July when new 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen notes are introduced, featuring the Japanese currency. Holographic Technology.

Machines have reduced the need for cashiers and waiters in Japan, where the workforce is shrinking. The most machine-dependent are ramen restaurants, which offer one of the favorite and most affordable delicacies of Japan’s working class.

Ramen is a type of noodle made from wheat flour and a rich broth. Popular in the 1980s As Japan’s economy took off, so did ramen shops. They expanded as people craved quick, filling food and chefs experimented with new ingredients. Today, many chefs are working to perfect ramen. Mr. Nishitani, 42, started making ramen when he was 17.

Ramen is a staple food for construction workers, factory workers, office workers and students looking for a cheap meal. Many ramen shops are clustered near train stations to serve commuters.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, students from a nearby university filed into Mr. Nishitani’s nine-seat shop, Goumen Maruko, for a late lunch.

He and his three employees sell about 100 dishes a day. Each costs less than 1,000 yen, or about $6.50. The most popular dish is the $5 Jiro-style bowl: noodles piled with vegetables and lard smothered in a steaming pork and chicken broth. The most expensive dish, which comes in a larger portion, costs about $6.20.

To help cover the cost of upgrading or replacing vending machines, some municipalities offer subsidies, but most of the cost will be borne by store owners. A new machine can cost 2 million yen, or about $13,000, said Masahiro Kawamura, a vending machine sales manager. Alcona company that sells ticket vending machines in Tokyo.

Yoshihiro Serizawa, who runs a soba shop in Tokyo, said he spent about $19,000 on the new machine, which also accepts cashless payments — “a huge financial burden.” That’s the equivalent of more than 6,000 orders for his most popular dishes: assorted vegetable soba noodles with seafood tempura, which cost just over $3.

“You always have to think about how to make the money back,” Mr. Serizawa said.

The new banknotes have put pressure on small businesses in Japan. Inflation Accelerating After years of keeping a low profile, the country Falling into recession.

Rising flour and electricity prices have increased expenses for ramen shops in particular. tokyo shoko research co., ltd. According to the company, 45 ramen restaurants nationwide filed for bankruptcy last year, the most since 2009. It is difficult for restaurants to raise prices because customers are not accustomed to price increases.

Among ramen chefs, the generally accepted limit for a bowl of ramen is known as “1000 Yen Wall

“I really don’t want to raise prices any more,” Mr. Nishitani said.

When Japan issued its last set of banknotes year 2004It cost hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp vending machines and issue 10 billion new banknotes. Demand was so high that net income at one manufacturer, Glory, near Osaka, tripled, according to an annual report.

The transition to the new machines could take years. By summer 2023, only about 30% of beverage vending machines will be able to accept the 500-yen coin introduced in 2021, according to the Japan Beverage Vending Machine Association. Sankei Shimbuna Japanese newspaper.

Mr. Nishitani’s vending machines don’t accept the coins, either. A Tokyo official said his ward will subsidize up to $1,900 for the purchase of new machines. Mr. Nishitani smiled and said that was almost enough.

With two months until the new bill comes out, he still hasn’t ordered a new machine. He recently started accepting payments through a credit card reader for the first time. But that comes with more overhead and more work.

“I just couldn’t get used to it,” he said.

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