The (Vending) Machines of Tokyo (Pictured Story)

One thing I was looking forward a lot during our recent trip to Japan were vending machines. We did not make to one of the big car parks, where dozens of different dishes are offered for a bunch of coins – but I felt that I at least give you some views of vending machines we passed by during our trip. Finally, I also introduce you to the three likely most famous vending machines in Tokyo, the Pokemon vending machines at Haneda Airport (HND). They are the only place where you can buy the Captain Pikachu plush (the chances to do so is low, though – they are sold out most of the time). I tried to structure my posting a bit by types of product – hope you enjoy this Pictured Story-format posting.



Food vending machines are the most widespread kind of vending machines in Tokyo. You especially find drink machines almost everywhere. Most vending machines only accept cash (coins, sometimes notes) and IC Cards (chargeable pay cards). The typical system in Tokyo is PASMO. Locals can also use it as an app and include it to Google Pay.  While PASMO Cards are no more available to locals due to that bypass, you can still get them as a tourist. Credit card acceptance is limited, but available. In some subway stations, you find smaller food vending sets, sometimes even with a bench or similar, so that you can have a rest right there. Around some vending machines, there are also sometimes facilities where you can put your used bottles into – public dustbins are unfortunately very rare in the Japanese capital.

The range of drinks offered is typically very wide range of drinks, starting from water and juices, energy drinks to ice tea. Sometimes, the display only gives the flavor of ice tea in Japanese, even if the original bottle also has an English print as well. This  introduces me to flavors like barley ice tea, which is a bit of unusual for European taste. I loved to run into fresh orange juice machines here and there – I started to really appreciate them during my trips to Singapore.

Especially around train stations, airports and similar places, you also find food vending machines. They range from snacks like apple slices or ice cream to full warm dishes. I would have loved to try out more of the stuff you see below. My favorite was definitely running into a (raw) steak vending machine on the ground floor of a shopping mall in Odaiba. In some train station, you also could grab a microwave meal before you are heading home after work (or take it to work?).

A very special kind of food “vending” machines are ticket machines at restaurants. Especially noodle places have that rather frequently. The machine gives you all kinds of dishes available. You pay at the machine before entering the restaurant. The machine gives you a ticket, which you then head to the server or chef. This system can also be very helpful for foreigners.


Toys and Gadgets

I initially wanted to write that drink machines are the most frequent ones in Tokyo… But tehre are the Gashapon machines as well. These machines, where you receive a random toy of a selected topic in a capsule for a few Yen, typically come in masses. You will run into places where hundreds of them are next to each other. The more modern ones take Pasmo, but typically, there is a coin changer somewhere around. The machines tell you the price of one capsule before you can turn the handle. You know the mechanism from nostalgic style chewing gum vending I guess…

Another typical machine in these places are differently working claw crane machines, where you need skill and a bit of luck (and previous customers, who gave you a good starting point) to drop a desired item down to the ground of the machine. Once you started playing with them, you might do it too regularly. However, I loved to see people, who are really skilled in it.

However, toys and small statues are, of course, also sold in typical vending machines. In some cases like on the pictures right below, the items boxed so that you don’t know which one (out of a certain series) you are finally getting.     


Other Items and Services

As said, there are numerous other vending machines. The one below (unfortunately, the light screens lead to a strong contrast) for example sold sporting good right inside Haneda Airport (HND). More frequently, you run into places where you can hire a battery power bank to charge your mobile devices.


Catching Designs

Last, but not least, I wanted to just show you some of the designs these machines can have. AS there are so many of them, you somehow need to attract the attention of a potential customer. Some machines do it in a really fancy way. I also liked the Olympic Games-themed drink vending machine close to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sites around Ariake.



Pokemon Hunting in Haneda

Some of the vending machines indeed take some level of fame. Definitely, three of them are yellow and are located at Tokyo-Haneda Airport (HND). The vending machines sell Pokemon merchandise. One of the key reasons why their are so popular is that they sell a special Pokemon plush, Captain Pikachu. The most popular Pokemon as an airline pilot is only sold at these places. Nowadays, the machines even have face recognition – the machines are stocked up regularly, but this item is sold out even quicker. The price is not that much different from typical Pokemon plush. It is just the capacity of the machines and the public demand which is leading to a challenge (if you really like to have it, it is likely the best option to stay close to the machine until they are stocked up).

I visited all three locations (and did not win the Buy Captain Pikachu challenge). However, I marked them in the map below. Namely, in early October 2023, they are located at

Terminal 1

The location is landside on departure level, rather at the end of the terminal, close to the Skymark airline check-in.


Termianal 2

The location is again landside, i.e. before security, on domestic departure level. You find it in the the center of the terminal in the Market Square area.


Terminal 3 International

In contrast to the other two places, you find this one airside, i.e. after security. The machine is placed close to gate 108B.

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