Ramen Vending Machines: What Are They & How To Use Them

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Using a ramen vending machine requires 4simple steps that’ll get you ramen within a short period of time!

When you visit Japan, there’s a possibility that you’ll find yourself in front of one of these machines since ramen is such an irresistible delicacy. Ramen vending machines are a convenient way to order food, and they’re commonly found at almost all ramen shops across Japan.

How to use a Japanese Ramen vending machine

Almost every Japanese person is used to this simple and fast way of ordering ramen, but this system tends to confuse first-timers, especially when everything’s written in Japanese.

However, this shouldn’t deter you from enjoying ramen since these machines are easy to master!

Also read: what are the thick Japanese noodles called again?

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What are ramen vending machines?

In Japan, restaurants are usually divided into 2 categories: those that provide a full-service system and those that have a food ticket system.

Ramen vending machines fall in the second category, and you’ll find them standing right next to the restaurant’s entrance, or even outside the restaurant. Therefore, you should be able to know how to order ramen from one of these machines.

If you find a signboard or a menu outside indicating the dishes offered at the ramen shop, you should check the dishes first, and then decide what you want to eat before you go into the shop.

Mostly, you’ll notice that there’s 1 vending machine or ticket machine available, and you shouldn’t take too long to make your order. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a long line behind you!

Most of the vending machines either have touchscreens or buttons.

The button machines are the older versions, with 1 dish per button. There’s a possibility that you’ll find these machines at old-fashioned restaurants that serve set meals, or in ramen shops that are privately run.

On the other hand, the vending machines with touchscreens offer their menu services in English or Chinese at times.

Mostly, the food pictures in these machines are large and colorful, which makes ordering food from these machines much easier, even for people who don’t speak Japanese. You’ll find these machines at large fast-food chains.

How do you order ramen from these machines?

You’ll need to follow 4 simple steps to get your food ticket. However, these are very common, and they might differ from one restaurant to another.

Let’s delve deeper into these steps.

Step 1: Insert your money

First, you’ll notice that the machine has a slot for bills and coins.

The slot locations might differ from one machine to another. However, the machines will have an icon showing where you need to insert your money.

When you do, the machine will automatically recognize the amount you’ve inserted and the dish buttons will flash or light up.

Step 2: Select your dish

Only a few ramen vending machines in Japan have an English menu; this means you’ll need to rely on the images.

Please note that when you can’t recognize the items on the images or there are no images displayed at all, select one of the options at the top left of the vending machine. The main reason behind this is that it’s much simpler.

Most of the ramen shops capitalize on the habit of customers searching for food in a Z-pattern, from upper left to upper right, then lower left to lower right. Therefore, they end up placing their main menu options on the top left.

If you’re confused about this, you can consider consulting the staff at these shops.

You shouldn’t be shy at all. Even when you don’t speak Japanese, just ask for the assistance that you need.

Also, you need to note that the ramen vending machines offer a generous option of toppings just below the main menu, like eggs and veggies. In addition, you can also order side dishes in the same manner.

Step 3: Pick your ticket and change

Once you make your choice, a food ticket or tickets will fall in a tray on the lower-left section of the machine.

Note that some vending machines will give you change together with your ticket. Others will need you to push an extra button to get the same.

Step 4: Give the ticket to the staff

Once you retrieve your ticket, proceed to the waiting area and give it to the chef or staff of the restaurant. In some shops, the staff will approach you directly while you’re at the machine.

They’ll then rip or cut the ticket, and you’ll get one half. You should place this slip on your table. Avoid losing it before you get your order.


So, now you know all the deliciously weird things about ramen vending machines. Will it be your next lunch?

Read more: different types of sushi explained

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.