Every time I talk to a male anime fan about being in Japan, the first question to pop up is, “Is it true that Japan has panty vending machines?” They get this excited look in their eyes or in their voice as they anticipate my answer. “Please say, ‘Yes’. Please say, ‘Yes’.”
The honest answer: Yes, panty vending machines exist in Japan. And I’ve seen one.
I saw my first and only panty vending machine at a hot springs entertainment complex in Odawara City. In case you haven’t had the experience of going to a hot spring, all you do is get completely naked, throw your clothes into a locker, scrub your body clean, and hop into different kinds of hot pools. When you’re done, you scrub your body clean again and go get your clothes. However, if you drip too much water on your clothes, or if your panties mysteriously disappear, or if they’re just too soiled, there’s a vending machine waiting for you. Now these panties aren’t the nice, cute-girl hipster types; they’re more like granny panties.
Though I’ve seen a granny-panties vending machine, it seems that panty vending machines are only in certain places, and rare at that.
In some places in Japan, you might be able to find some panty vending machines out in the open. More than likely, they’ll be tucked away between some cola machines or near a “pink” video vending machine dispensing porn. One blogger posted he found these machines on a lone street in Kumamoto. Lucky guy to be a witness to the cute panty vending machines.
Aside from this blogger, I’ve asked my Japanese friends about the machines. They seemed confused by the question– I mean, it’s not every day someone asks you if there are vending machines dispensing panties–so they paused before answering. “There are some near a roller coaster,” they replied. Not so shocking, seeing that some people pee in their pants–er, panties, so they have to get new ones asap.
As for used panty vending machines, my friends claimed there were none, along with a look of disgust. But supposedly, there is evidence that even they once existed before the government banned them in 1993, according to a Snopes.com article. Schoolgirls would go to a porn shop, trade their panties for a pretty one provided by the shop, then they would go to school and return to trade back the soiled panties for their own underwear. I don’t get why people would want used panties, aside from stealing them from unguarded verandas as a joke, but supposedly that was done before the government ban.
So, for all of you curious fans out there thinking about “weird Japan”, yes, panty vending machines exist in Japan, but they’re not on every corner or street that your eyes will see.