A day in Tokyo living off vending machines? Challenge accepted!

Could you spend 24 hours eating and drinking only items dispensed from vending machines in Tokyo? Let's find out.

Tokyo's favourite canned coffee brand is Boss
  • David Allegreti
  • April 2019

Japan’s five million vending machines aren’t just full of lollies and soft drink – you can trade coins for batteries, eggs, fruit and even toilet paper. With 24 hours in Tokyo and a handful of loose change, I am on a mission to seek out as many as I can.

Kick-starting the morning

8am; Bottled water AUD $1.50

Yes, I know – a boring choice for stop numero uno of my fun-filled mechanistic culinary adventure through Japan’s capital but hear me out. Your body needs water first thing in the morning.

Where? Pretty much every vending machine in Toyko.

8.12am; Suntory Boss coffee AUD $1.40

Now, onto the good stuff. Specifically, the silky smooth, artificially flavoured brown liquid brought to you by Boss. Who is Boss? No-one really knows but what I can tell you is that his face is plastered over more than 20 varieties of canned coffee, all of which taste about the same. I go for Premium Boss and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Where? Like water, you’re never too far from a Boss coffee in this city.

Tokyo's favourite canned coffee brand is Boss
Tokyo's favourite canned coffee brand is Boss.

9.15am; Super banana AUD $2.30

Inside the magnificent banana vending machine, you’ll find there are two price points: AUD $1.90 for the standard banana and AUD $2.30 for a “super” banana. I don’t know the difference but I go for the super banana. I think it’s slightly bigger but I’ll never know for sure. For those playing at home, the machine is kept at the optimum banana temperature of 13°C – and it shows. That was a quality banana.

Where? Near Shibuya Station.

9.21am; Pokka Lifeplus Vitamin AUD $1.60

Japanese winters are unforgiving. Or maybe I’m soft. Whatever the case, I feel a cold coming on so I’m stoked to stumble upon a machine offering what look to be vitamin C drinks. I down a nice lemon-flavoured immune booster and I’m on my way.

Where? Around the corner from the super banana vending machine.

You can also find healthy(ish) snacks from vending machines
You can also find healthy(ish) snacks from vending machines.

9.49am; Bourbon Slowbar AUD $1.50, Funwari Chocolate Cake AUD $1.50

I don’t know what a Slowbar is but it tastes bloody amazing. Ditto for the white chocolate cake bar.

Where? Shibuya.

10.30am; Blueberry crêpes AUD $1.75

Light. Fluffy. Subtle. Well done.

Where? Near Ueno Station.

11.00am; Pocari Sweat AUD $1.75

There are two types of people: those who like Pocari Sweat and those who haven’t tasted Pocari Sweat. If you fall into the latter, here’s a run-down. It’s a sweet sports beverage, marketed as an “ion supply” drink that mimics the chemical composition of human sweat. Hydration never tasted so good.

Where? Everywhere. I wouldn’t trust a machine that didn’t dispense Pocari.

Vending machines offer a quick and easy way to rehydrate anywhere.
Vending machines offer a quick and easy way to rehydrate anywhere.

It’s lunchtime

12.56pm; Bourbon Choco Brownie AUD $1.40

This was good – really good.

Where? Akihabara.

2.04pm; Cheese sticks AUD $1.75

Squishy, highly processed, salty and hardly a trace of real cheese to be found. These tasted exactly as I hoped they would.

Where? Harajuku.

3.22pm; Pepsi Refresh Shot AUD $1.60

My eyelids are getting heavy, so what better than a half-size Pepsi with twice the caffeine to wake me from my impending slumber? Don’t bother answering – I can’t hear you. Let me tell you this, though – a Refresh Shot isn’t as exciting as I hoped. It just tastes like regular Pepsi but with extra jitters.

Where? Shibuya Station.

Dinner and drinks – automated

5.00pm; Yona Yona Ale AUD $3.65

I stop in the old neighbourhood of Nippori with a pal of mine and decide to enjoy a nice, early evening beer the Japanese way – on the street. We perch on a bench near the vending machine and crack open a Yona Yona Ale, a pleasant little pale ale alternative to the big four beers – Suntory, Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin.

Where? Nippori.

Tokyo lets you get a beer anywhere, anytime.
Tokyo lets you get a beer anywhere, anytime.

5.29pm; Suiyoubi no Neko beer AUD $3.65

With peak-hour people-watching and the sun setting in this picturesque area, it would be rude not to stay for another drink. This time I go with the Belgian white ale Suiyoubi no Neko, which translates to “Wednesday cat”.

Where? Nippori.

8.09pm; Corn soup AUD $1.60

I was expecting this to taste foul but I was pleasantly surprised. Thank you, Japan, for your delicious corn soup in a can. I could have downed five more of these.

Where? Tokyo Station surrounds.

8.14pm; Tomato soup AUD $1.60

Buoyed by the unforeseen deliciousness of the canned corn soup, I throw myself towards its neighbour. Big mistake. The contents of my can were less tomato soup and more lukewarm salty water. I had two sips before trashing it.

Where? Tokyo Station surrounds.

9.07pm; Ice cream AUD $1.90

I’d heard rumours of a lettuce vending machine near Tokyo Station but after an hour of searching bore no frui- er… vegetables, I give up and go one better – ice cream. I find an ice cream vending machine. Amazing! The chocolate mint waffle ice cream sandwich I opt for? Not so amazing.

Where? Tokyo Station surrounds.

Enjoy a well-earned ice cream after a day of trekking around Tokyo.
Enjoy a well-earned ice cream after a day of trekking around Tokyo.

By this point, I’m feeling kind of sick. I can’t imagine why. Anyway, the moral of the story is… um, Japan has vending machines – more than Australia. But maybe don’t eat exclusively from them or you’ll end up with a stomach-ache.