Asia,  Destinations,  Japan

Vending machine drinks in Japan

I traveled in Japan for nearly three months in 2023, from February to April. One of the things I was most looking forward while over there was checking out the vending machines!

Japan has amazing vending machines, where they sell anything from hot drinks to clothing to electronics to pizza. I became addicted to hot tea bottles during the cold months (which was nearly my whole trip)– for only ¥110, I could get a piping hot bottle of milk tea to carry around while sightseeing in freezing 43°F weather.

I tried lots of vending machines during my trip, and took pictures of the drinks I got from them. Here’s some of my collection, which I hope will inspire you to the possibilities of what’s available on your own trip to Japan.

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Japan vending machines FAQ

Do Japanese vending machines accept credit card?

Some payment options at a Japanese vending machine.

The majority of the machines I saw accepted cash, mobile pay apps like LinePay or AliPay, Suica or Pasmo cards (aka IC cards), or very rarely a credit card.

It depended on the location of the machine and what you wanted to buy. The smaller drinks vending machines on the side of the roads, for instance, only took cash (and usually only coins at that). The vending machines in larger shopping streets tended to have more payment methods.

I would suggest just saving ¥100 coins and ¥500 coins and using those, as they were always accepted at every vending machine.

How much do drinks cost?

There’s definitely a range, again depending on the location of the machine. But usually they ranged from ¥80-¥200, with most of them topping out at ¥140. Sometimes you could walk across the street to a very similar machine and get the same drink for ¥20 less, so if you’re on a tight budget it might pay to “shop around.”

When are the hot drinks available?

Basically during any of the cold months, starting in September or October. They still had them out in late March but they started leaving once the weather got warmer in April.

If you miss out on the hot drinks in a vending machine, you can still buy hot tea bottles in 7-11 or other convenience stores.

Favorite Japanese drinks from vending machines

My very very favorite drinks to get from Japan’s vending machines are…

Hot milk tea!

Yes! it comes out of the vending machine HOT. There’s a heating element in there that keeps the bottles toasty warm until you buy them. These two, Lipton Milk Tea and Tully’s & Tea, were the most common brands I found, along with Kirin’s Royal Milk Tea. They all basically taste the same, but the Lipton one was slightly less sweet.

Note the small-sized bottles. The hot drinks from vending machines are always about this size, or perhaps slightly smaller in some places. If you want full-size hot tea bottles, head inside a convenience store and check there.

Royal Milk Tea is a special blend– just added milk powder and sugar, with black tea base (I think?)– and if you’re craving some but can’t make it to Japan just yet, Nitto has an instant royal milk tea powder available which tastes very similar. I used this same stuff when I was in Japan to make my own royal milk tea at home, actually!

Suntory’s C.C. Lemon with Peach was so refreshing! Their regular C.C. Lemon drinks are good– like sparkling lemonade, basically– but the addition of peach flavor gave it something special. I think this is a limited time drink that only comes out for a month or so in the spring, so it may not be available year-round.

(That said, I just found a four pack of C.C. Lemon with Peach available on Amazon! So maybe it IS available year-round, if you’re willing to buy it online.)

Mistio Sparkling Grape soda was surprisingly good. I despise grape sodas in America, but the Japanese ones have a lighter flavor, less like the heavy grape syrup we get at home. That said, it DID still taste a bit like sparkling communion wine.

Unusual vending machine drinks

I found this vending machine in Fukuoka selling a butter & milk drink by Sangaria. A HUGE bottle for only ¥140, equivalent to something like $1 USD! I just had to try it– and honestly, it wasn’t bad.

However, I found it difficult to drink an entire bottle of sweet buttery milk and gave up after a few sips. If you’re a big milk fan, though, you might want to try this. It was sold cold but I suppose it might be a nice hot drink as well.

I ran into a few of these “craft cola” vending machines in Osaka, Japan and I got some to try. They’re both by Asahi under their Craftmanship line. They taste very strongly of spices, much more than regular sodas. The ginger ale cost only ¥100 and I think the craft cola one cost about the same.

Sidenote: The green vending machine has signs that there are ¥50 drinks available, which is true…but they’re teeny tiny cans about half the size of regular ones. 😛 The rest of the drinks are the normal ¥80-100 price.

Tokunou Honey Lemon Squash is just a regular honey lemon flavored drink– we don’t really have squash drink in America so I wasn’t sure if it had actual vegetables in it or what, but it’s the same kind of squash you find in England. “Squash” is just drinks made from a concentrated syrup.

Kirin hot chocolate was another hot drink available in the cold months. It wasn’t too bad, but I found the taste very thin compared to the hot chocolates we have over here in America. Actually, it reminded me of hot chocolate I had in France.

Maybe it’s made using skim milk? Or a darker cocoa? Not as sweet as I was expecting, either, so if you don’t have a big sweet tooth maybe this would be a good choice.

Themed vending machines

It was super cute finding themed vending machines, but to my disappointment the drinks (and/or snacks) inside were just the normal selection. The Nagasaki machine in the middle isn’t a drink vending machine, but I wanted to show it off because it has local food inside that you can buy before heading on the train.

Misc. vending machines

These are the typical drinks vending machines found in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, etc. They’re usually only one brand, like Coca-Cola, Kirin, Asahi or Suntory’s Craft Boss and they all tend to lure you in with promises of cheap drinks that turn out to be more expensive when you get closer.

The rows with red prices are hot beverages! The ones with blue are cold drinks. You can get either one in the same machine and they’ll be the perfect temperature.

Some more typical drinks vending machines. The machine on the left was one of the highest priced vending machines I found, with the one coffee drink on the top left coming in at ¥170.

Japanese vending machines are a fun (and cheap) way to explore a wide selection of Japanese drinks. I highly recommend checking them out whenever you’re in Japan!

Check out these other posts about traveling in Japan:

Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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