Japanese Drinks & Vending Machines

Beverage porn

20 July, 2011 by

One of the first things that visitors always notice about Japan is the sheer number of vending machines all over the country. In fact, Japan is home to more than 5,260,000 vending machines at last count. Numerous machines litter the corner of every street, dispensing all sorts of things you’d least expect. But drink vending machines still remain the most common. These simple steel boxes often hold an amusing assortment of brightly labeled beverages that seem especially attractive when lined up in the manner. Dozens of photos of Japanese vending machines and their drinks inside.

When it comes to packing, you’ve got to hand it to the Japanese for their alluring designs. The colorful, bold and often simplistic graphics tell you little more than the contents of the can but somehow, it works. I once traveled with someone who couldn’t resist stopping at every machine to pick up a drink. This despite having spent years in Japan already, so it wasn’t just a tourist thing.

Drinks often cost between 100 to 150 yen and seem like a great way to get rid of spare coins. It’s particularly tempting when you need a soda to quench the hot summer heat or something to keep you warm in the winter. Or so the advertisements featuring your favorite celebrities would lead you believe. But a dollar here and there quickly adds up.

But how can you resist Mizukawa Asami.

Most machines are branded. So you have to go around looking for a particular machine.

Amino Supli.



Attaka Lemon C. A warm lemon drink.

Georgia Cafe Au Lait. Warm cans are useful in the cold temperature.

Interesting choices at different machines.

I guess many will be weakened by the illusion of choice. And you can’t help but seek out the most desirable option among those presented to you and suddenly, that bottle or can starts to look like a rather good buy. Give in and hope for the best.

Sometimes you’ll end up with a genuinely delicious drink. At other times, a disappointing dud. Yet most machines here are owned by the individual companies so regardless of what you choose, the machine wins.

The trick is to never settle though and always wait till you find a machine with something you actually want to drink, since it is seldom far away. Or better yet, just bring along some water next time.

Kochakaden (Coca-Cola) Royal Milk Tea. Probably the best choice among all the brands.

Strawberry Flavored Version. Tastes overwhelmingly like strawberry milk.

Asahi Milk Tea. The similar packing is confusing.

Always amusing names.

Yet when I come across an interesting buy myself, I often end up succumbing (and regretting after). Such as in this case. Fortunately, you won’t see this often. It’s one of those strange prefecture drinks that are probably an acquired taste. The Miyazaki equivalent of Sarsi or Kickappo.

Skal Melon. Fizzy, milky melon flavored drink. Do not try.

A lot of tourist traps sell overpriced attraction themed bottled water.

But I guess there is a market if they are selling it.

Often find strange experimental drinks.

Pancake Milk Shake...

The thing is, I often find that most Japanese drinks end up being kind of inept at their obvious purpose of quenching thirst. You’ll find that many of their original drinks contain ridiculous amounts of sugar when compared to say, foreign colas. In fact, even their “juice drinks” are sickening sweet. Which is probably why they are required to put their actual fruit content in percentage. You’d be surprised by how low the numbers are.

Kirin Lemon Tea. Drinks are required to state the actual amount of juice on their packing.

Itoen Fruit Mix. One of the rare 100% juice.

Otsuka Match. Another vitamin drink.

Many vending machines serve more than drinks...will have to feature those some other time.

Milk vending machine.

Got to love the attractive visuals.

Nacchan Party. Emoticon drink.

Kirin Loves Sports. Interesting use of the label's edge.

Around every corner.

One of the drinks that I can regularly rely on though is Calpis. The yoghurt drink is light enough to enjoy anytime. I’ve compiled photos from an attempt to try out ever flavor possible but have fallen short.

Premium Calpis. A more expensive, thicker version. I actually prefer the normal one.

Calpis Soda. Lighter carbonated version.

Peach Calpis.

Mango Calpis.

Some of the unusual Calpis flavors I missed.

Gokuri. Yan wrote about this in an older article.

Nice detail on the bottles.

Here’s a quick link to Yan’s older share on Suntory Gokuri.

Ultra Cola.

Seems that there was a whole series of Ultraman themed drinks.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.
  • Charlie

    I need to ship me 5 dozen Aquarius, canned Melon shakes and canned iced coffees

  • Michael Gibbons

    I am trying to find the name of a carbonated fruit drink range which has a bear on the front. They come in Apple, Grape and Orange. They seemed to be in the occasional vending machine we came across. Can anyone help me?

    • Yoko

      Hmm, do you mean “Qoo”? Ok, i don’t know what kind of animal Qoo is :-/

  • Yoko

    i love cc lemon! very refreshing 🙂

  • Tony Grijalva

    I was in Kyoto a few weeks ago and I had a drink from a vending machine that tasted like a “White Smarty” — you know from the candy Smarties. It was in a yellow can and it had vitamin C in it. I’m trying to find it on the ‘net! I want to see if I can order a case or two and have it shipped to Texas. 🙂

  • Felicia

    that probably wasn’t kuroki meisa, but mizukawa asami.

    • Sho

      Ah. Indeed it is…I always mix them up.

  • wahlau eh!! you bought how many bottles/cans of drinks in Japan? hahaha
    Been missing Tokyo and friends there..huhu

  • Hugh

    So many good looking drinks there! Be hard to tell which is awful and which is nice 😛

    What would you say was your favourite drink?

    • Sho

      My fave has got to be Calpis. I’d say keep away from the vitamin drinks.