Crank this vending machine 70 times in emergency

Vending machines are ubiquitous in Japan, but they're useless when the power is cut. Luckily, Sanden's emergency vending machines also work on elbow grease.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Spin doctor: The crank must be turned 70 times to juice the machine. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Japan marked the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters this week, and over the past year Japanese companies have been working on technology for use in similar emergencies.

One thing that struck me when I was in Tokyo after the quake was the darkened streets and vending machines, which had been dimmed amid electricity shortages. Up north in the tsunami-hit areas of Tohoku, I saw many vending machines that weren't working because entire neighborhoods had no power.

Vending machine maker Sanden, which has some 30 percent of the global market, has been showing off a hand-cranked vending machine for emergencies when the power's out and solar generation isn't available or feasible.

Japan had some 5 million vending machines as of the end of 2010, including coin lockers, and they're nearly ubiquitous, found even on the slopes of Mt. Fuji. Sanden's crank would seem like an essential technology.

Unfortunately, it takes about 70 rotations of the crank to power up the machine, as seen in the vid below. The gauges by the crank show the appropriate amount of force to use.

Even the Sanden official demonstrating the tech says it's difficult. But 20 seconds after being powered up, the machine ready to dispense up to six or seven bottled drinks.

You'd probably still be thirsty after all that cranking. The only thing to do, however, is to keep cranking.