Friday, May 20, 2016

Vending Machines - From Holy Water to Used Schoolgirl Panties

H/T to Yutaka, one of five visitors to Thurs. Writers yesterday.  The group are ESL students and their teacher thought it would give them confidence to write and read aloud short pieces about their country of origin.  Yutaka said that there are 5.52 million vending machines in Japan and that triggered this.

A man named Hero of Alexandria invented a vending machine in the 1st century.  The buyer inserted a coin into the machine; the coin weight pressed down on a lever that released a small amount of holy water into a container.  Vending matters apparently stalled thereafter (communications being what they were in those days) and it wasn't until 1883 in London that one Percival Everitt re-invented them to dispense stamps, postcards in post offices and railway stations.   

In 1888 the Thomas Adams Gum Company began using vending machines to dispense chewing gum.

Japan - the entire country - now leads the rest of us in Variety of Products Available From A Vending Machine.  To name only a few - noodle meals, bread in a can, umbrellas, neckties, batteries, cigarettes and beer.  There is a vending machine for every 23 residents. 

There is one more item that seems to have become more of an urban legend than a viable product for sale and that is used ladies panties.  They were a major item of interest to visiting foreigners.  To be on the safe side perhaps, in 2004 the Japanese government issued a series of laws forbidding this practice but with little wrist taps rather than the mandatory five year sentence for child porn found in the U.S.

Canny manufacturers today sell roughed up underpants (think "distressed denim") and in Japanese the label informs the buyer that they are manufactured and not garnered from young Japanese ladies desperate for an allowance infusion. 

And I couldn't make this up.  Go to and reassure yourself that I didn't.

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