Convenience & Smoking in Japan
Back in the US, we are used to vending machines, but usually just for drinks, snacks, now sometimes ipods & electronic gadgets, etc. They are usually just in lobbies, cafeterias, or places like vending areas in motels. Generally, it’s been my experience to not be surprised if you lose a little money in those machines. I’m sure most people can relate to staring at a bag of [skittles, chips, popcorn] they just tried to purchase, leaning against the glass, this close to falling down to the bin to your hopeful fingers, but they are stuck there in purgatory. You take a look around to see if someone’s willing & able to help you tilt the machine to free your snack. “The machine ate my money!” and “help me tilt it! We can get it out!” were common statements just a few years ago when I was still in college.
Vending machines here in Japan are ubiquitous and thus far: very useful & convenient! I have yet to lose any money, see anything get stuck, and depending on the season, my drink is always perfectly warm (coffee & tea in the cold winter!) or refreshingly cool (in the midst of humid summer heat). The machines often have hot & cold options in the same machine, and they are extremely convenient. There is almost always a machine within a couple of blocks of wherever you might find yourself. Even when I lived in the countryside in Takayama, I still had a machine within 2 blocks of my house – 1 in each direction!
Now that I live in a more populated area, I am even more spoiled by the frequency of vending machines. There is one at the end of the parking lot behind my apartment, and many more if I walk a block in any direction. Until recently, I’ve always been surprised to see cigarette vending machines. These aren’t your old-style machines in maroon & dark wood paneled, dimly lit restaurants, with a pull button to select your purchase, and no more than 5 choices. These are your standard quality automatically lighting up machines with exciting looking advertisements, backlit displays which come on perfectly just as dusk begins to fall, LED buttons all changing colors when people are around, and a wide variety of options. These cigarette machines aren’t quite as frequently found as drink machines, but they aren’t all that uncommon, either.
About 20+ options for you, and all 3 cigarette conveniently located next to a drink machine (far left) as well!
Here’s the real surprise though – the price! The most expensive item I saw was 440 yen = $4.35 USD (currently)! A pack of cigarettes in Chicago will run you about $12 these days! Smoking is allowed in most cafes, restaurants, & bars in the country, and it is seemingly still perceived as ‘cool’ to smoke here, though a few places are beginning to disallow it.
How much do cigarettes go for in your neck of the woods? What do you think about cigarette vending machines?