Friday, August 17, 2012


79. It's not my weight. Nor — believe it or not — is it my IQ. Instead, 79 is the number of vending machines visible to me on my walk from home to my subway station. All but a handful are selling soft drinks; mostly tea, coffee and juices with the occasional carbonated soda.

44. That's the number of vending machines not only visible but standing directly in my path. As in, I would have to do no more than stop and turn to buy myself a refreshing beverage.

750. That's the distance, in meters, from our front door to the subway entrance. A nice, brisk morning walk.

17. As in, one vending machine every 17 meters on average, not counting the ones not directly along the path. I'd have to drink one bottle every 12 seconds or so if I wanted to drink from each vending machine in turn on my way to work.

Living in a busy city can present plenty of dangers. Dying of thirst is, however, apparently not among them.

Vending Machine
An office worker gets herself a morning coffee.


  1. IQ 79 on an accomplished researcher, no way!
    I've been told by others that I'm a very good student, must be intelligent, et al. Frankly I've never done any IQ test. Lazy to do it and a bad result might not be positive for one's self esteem. About tests, I don't even know my blood type (having a blood test soon though).

    The vending machine situation is curious. Walking around Barcelona (my nearest big city) it's rare to spot one. Anyways, those haven't brought my attention.
    I live how reading this blog brings little snippets of Japan life.

    In 3 weeks I begin my college/uni year. The last station of the train line that runs from my town to Barcelona is 1km from my Campus.

    On the first days I'll have to study transport combinations. Going out a station earlier and taking the subway lets me exit an station that is just in front of my uni. Quite comfy!

  2. First, I think you should reserve "accomplished" to people who actually, well, accomplishes things. I am not among them ^_^

    In general, I don't think researchers are any brighter than people in general. If you can get a university degree you're smart enough to do research. Rather, you need enough interest in your subject to dig into it at excruciating detail and to stick with it for years, no matter how many failures and setbacks you got.

    You don't need to be smart, in other words, you just need to be obsessive and nerdy about your subject, in a train-spotting kind of sense.

    I think a big part of the vending machine mystery is simply that Japanese cities do not regulate their placement as long as they're on private land. In many other countries they're restricted or outright forbidden.

    Another one is the economic mechanism. I think it works like this: The building owner lends the space to the drink company for free, and supplies the electricity. The drink company restocks and maintains the machine, collects the money and so on. Company and building owner split the profits once stocking fees and electricity is subtracted.

    That means there is every incentive for everyone to add as many machines they can. There's virtually no downside; even with virtually no sales the cost of keeping them is very low. So we get an oversupply of vending machines.

  3. I'm just back from Lund where I saw not a single vending machine of any kind on the streets of the old venerable town. I think it is because the crime rate, it has nothing to do with city planning. They would not last in Europe where (some) people have a different view of private property.

    Having said that, I think they ought to be outlawed due to the energy consumption. 79 of them on your short walk, all complete with both heating and cooling units. Difficult to justify as we try to reduce energy use.

  4. There's quite a few vending machines indoors in various public places in Lund, though. I heard when I lived there that there were no outside only because of local building regulations.

    I agree that the number around here is excessive. That said, I don't think outlawing them is a reasonable reaction. It's up to the building owners if they want to spend the money on powering them after all.

    Many machines have turned off or greatly reduced the the lighting level, and that accounts for almost half of the total energy use. The internals run at around 200-250 watt, the same range as a typical lit restaurant or shop sign, or a couple of yard lights. And they are providing a service; those that don't sell anything won't stay around.


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