Vending machine business, 自動販売機 (jidouhanbaiki), photo essay by Edward Way
Japan has the highest ratio of vending machines to landmass in the world. Located at the border between public and private space, 自動販売機 « Jidouhanbaiki » are a Japanese particularity as distribution companies encourage people to install them on their properties « to earn money day and night while doing pretty much nothing ». Their functions are multiple. Witnessing the shifting realities of life around them, at night they light the innumerable dark little streets of Tokyo; at day, they provide contemporary consumers with conveniences.
But where are these machines placed? Seemingly dropped out of nowhere, they are reshaping urban space by filling in the borders between domestic and public experience. They serve as reminders of how people organize the space around them, according to their needs and fears, raising questions on privacy, domesticity and security. They reflect Japanese society’s pride of security, respect and hierarchy whereas they may seem out of context.
The place of these machines, and what surrounds them let us see how Japanese society consider their relationship to the outside and the inside but also how they view their future, built out of the existing. It lets us know how intertwined these perspectives are. In a culture marked with contradictions, the jidouhanbaiki are halfway between traditionalism and the ephemeral, collective consciousness and individualism, humanized service and modern automation, surveillance and fear.
But what are we afraid of? darkness? frustration? emptiness? solitude? deprivation?
What do we need? drinks? people? machines? services? tranquility? protection? (Edward Way)