The first vending machine in Japan was a tobacco vendor, which was made in 1888 in Bakan (now Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture) by Tawaraya Koshichi, a furniture artisan and an inventor.
Vending machines became popular in Japan in the late 1950s. The pioneering vending machine was a “Fountain-style Juice Dispenser,” a box mounted with a juice fountain. This was an unprecedented success thanks to its fountain performance and a reasonable price of just 10 yen per paper cup. Later, as companies engaging in the vending machine business appeared and beer companies also entered the vending machine industry, the number of vending machines rapidly increased from 240,000 in 1964 to 1 million in 1970. In 1973, the number exceeded 2 million and by 1984 it had reached 5 million. The number of vending machines in Japan has increased moderately since then.
In 2004, Osaka initiated a pilot project of using robots to watch over children on their way between school and home, and citizens in the street, for their safety. In addition to security cameras installed in vending machines to watch over students, the vendors can communicate by radio with children’s IC tags in order to obtain their location information, find suspicious figures, and call the police if needed.