American vending machines always have the same items: chips, candy, soda, energy drinks. The usual gas station convenience store fare. Your best bet is an overpriced bag of Fritos and a soda that might get stuck in the machine.
But those who have been to Japan know it doesn’t have to be this way. On Japan’s busy streets and you’ll find over 5 million unique and easy-to-use vending machines. Besides specialty drinks and snacks, these machines sell goods like ramen, onigiri, electronics, themed toys and even homemade curry.
But if what if there were vending machines that catered to Asian Americans? With this list we’ve dreamed up a list of concepts inspired by Japanese vending machines but designed with the Asian American consumer in mind. The possibilities are truly endless. And probably milk tea-flavored.
Picture this: you’re in an unfamiliar part of town, looking up the nearest boba shop only to find expensive prices, powdered milk (bleh), overcooked boba or watery drinks. Or, *gasp,* there’s no tea shop nearby. With an army of pearl milk tea machines on the streets, boba addicts could order perfectly prepared drinks from this vending machine at any time of the day. Customized flavors, sweetness, non-dairy milk options and toppings would be available, too, of course.
2. Asian Medicine
For those feeling under the weather, stop at this station that’s always well-stocked with grandma’s go-to remedies like Tiger Balm, Zam-Buk, Snake Brand powder, Vicks, Po Chai Pills and Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. Whatever it may be, there’s a cure for it here.
3. Mini Market
For all the college kids in rural areas craving the motherland’s cuisine. Think 99 Ranch, H-Mart or your local family owned grocery condensed into a few quick, easy to prepare essential items. Even grab a few packets of your favorite condiments, perfect for jazzing up flavorless food from the dining halls.
Let’s get crafty. This one stop shop was designed for anyone with a bullet journal or a penchant for fancy gel pens. Stickers, washi tape, highlighters and notebooks would reside in a convenient cube. Actually, let’s just stick the stationary section of a Muji store in this thing.
5. K-Beauty Products
Self-care is on the rise and we are here for it. K-Beauty and skincare products are so popular now that you can find them at your local drugstore, but these vending machines would make them even more accessible. Stock up on aloe sheet masks, enriching serums, hydrating eye cream and weightless sunscreens at these machines.
6. API-Designed and Owned Apparel & Merch
For us, by us. These machines would take empowerment via brand loyalty to the next level. Rep your favorite API-owned brands like Asian American Girl Club, TRUST Studios, and The Gaysian Project. Featured brands change would change with the seasons so customers will never be out of style.
7. Bakery Treats
Bakeries like 85c and Tous Les Jours are known to have treats that are just the right amount of sweetness. Pastries from this machine would come warm and fresh, straight out of the “oven.” Those flakey egg tarts and taro buns are calling your name.