A Subway Train in Japan Gets a Second Life…as a Vending Machine

A Subway Train in Japan Gets a Second Life…as a Vending Machine

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Vending train
A long-serving train car on Tokyo Metro's Ginza line isn't heading entirely for the scrapyard: a part of its gets to live on in the station.

Occasionally, I have a realization that there are Japan-related topics that we haven’t talked much about on Unseen Japan. One of them is vending machines.

Known as 自動販売機 (jidou hanbaiki), or more popularly by the shorter 自販機 (jihanki), vending machines, along with 24/7 convenience stores, are part of Japan’s “convenience culture” – a piece of societal infrastructure that makes working long hours and being far away from home just a little bit easier. The combination of convenience culture and Japan’s love of automation means you can find vending machines that dispense, not just soda, but a wide array of goods – up to and including freshly baked pizza.


While vending machines may be a common sight, there’s a fairly uncommon machine in the Tameike Sanoo Station of Tokyo Metro’s Ginza line. What makes its special isn’t its content, but its construction: it contains the remnants of a decommissioned subway train. The machine has been dubbed “THE VENDING TRAIN”, and has become the surprising subject of social media attention.

A video on YouTube shows the machine being put together, and explains a bit of its history:


The train was the last car from the 01 line of trains on the Ginza Line, which was in operation for 33 years. The cars were slowly taken out of service and replaced as they reached the end of their lives. But no one wanted to simply see the stalwart line go out of service completely, so the final car was instead disassembled and its parts reused to make a drink dispenser.


Working conductors who were interviewed for the video talk about the train as if it were a human being. One conductors says: “It’s a veteran, but I almost want to say it’s like we did a heart transplant and told it, ‘start over!'” Much in the same way that Marie Kondo urges people to thank objects for their service before throwing them away, one can detect the Shinto tradition’s belief in the living status of all things in the way the conductors talk. Conductors seem to take a certain pride that a train that’s “supported” them and supported hundreds of thousands of passengers is getting a second chance at life.

The vending machine sports the old train’s destination marker, train number, Tokyo Metro trademark, and car number plate. More than that, the machine also speaks, using five phrases recorded by working conductors – meaning that a little part of the conductors, too, will also live on in the machine.


Visitors can check it out on the station platform near the central gate by the exit for platforms 11 and 12 at the Tameike Sanoo Station.

(JP) Link: A Train’s Parts Become a Vending Machine; Ginza Line “Re-Employment” Becomes Hot Topic

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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