Adventures in East Asia

Fast Food Ordering Vending Machines in Tokyo

Japan seems to be synonymous with vending machines along with many other things and although we found the streets weren't full of them, there were more than in Hong Kong. I was unsure about using vending machines since I felt there might be a good probability that they'd be broken but would still take your money. I concluded that this was because I'd grown up in the UK where vandalism seems more rife than in Japan and so vending machines aren't as practical there.


Anyway, one of the first things that faced us when looking for breakfast on our first proper day in Tokyo was a vending machine. We decided to give a branch of Ringerhut a go. It seems to be a Japanese fast food place, one of many that use the vending machine format. This basically means that you order using a vending machine near the entrance and then take an available seat inside and give your ticket to a staff member.

Since we can't read Japanese, we appreciated that most places had photos of the dishes to choose from, although Linh ordered some ramen dishes that were cold at some places without realising - an easy mistake to make. Sometimes, the photos were on the buttons themselves, other times, we just saw the price and Japanese characters on a menu and just found the matching button - quite easy to do. On our first go however, after staring and pointing at the machine for a few minutes, a member of staff did come over to give us a hand.

The first thing we had to do was put our money in first. Depending on how much you put in, the nice thing I noticed was that little led's lit up on the buttons corresponding to the meals you could afford so far. Once we made our choice, we simply pressed the button to receive a ticket.


Our food comes pretty quickly. Over the course of our two weeks in Japan, where we visited a number of these fast food places, we tried all kinds of subtle variations in ramen dishes - I was never aware there were so many! The unfortunate thing about not reading Japanese was not knowing what the ingredients and types of ramen dishes that we were eating were.

Some vending machine restaurants also served curry dishes - I went back to one place inside Shinjuku station five times, although we tend not to visit the same restaurant more than once to maximise our "culinary experience". The curry place I visited had the smile-inducing name "Happy Sunset Set Plate" and reminded me of London's Misato, but just not with a scarily large plate of food. The winner for me however was not the name, but the excellent vegetable and ginger pickles set at the table with the chopsticks. If the Japanese were more direct, I'm sure they would have objected to the amounts I scooped up to accompany my burger curry and rice.

Apart from good, cheap food, the obvious appeal with the vending machines is the speed at which you can complete your meal. At around 300JPY - 600JPY (£2 - £4), once you get your ticket, most dishes seem designed to be served quickly, arriving a few moments after a complimentary glass of water. Sitting with my meal, I noticed the turnover of customers to be quite high, all served by the no-nonsense, speedy and attentive staff.

This entry posted in : Culture. Food. Japan.

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23/09/10  at  09:58 AM
In Japan, many small restaurants make you buy food tickets by vending machine so they don't need a cashier

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