Tokyo Gold Vending Machine Vies with Drinks, Lingerie

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"Japanese consumers can invest in 'something real.'"

vending machines gold

Makishi Rokugawa says he's installing the first gold vending machines in central Tokyo so Japanese consumers can invest in "something real."

Space International Ltd., a company started by Rokugawa with funds from selling novelty USB flash drives, is offering gold or silver to the world's biggest vending machine market, where consumers can buy anything from drinks and candy to lingerie and fortune-telling printouts.

In a nation where deflation has cut consumer prices for 21 straight months through November, salaries are the smallest since 1990, bond yields are the world's lowest, and the stock market is 40% below its December 1989 peak, "ordinary Japanese need a way to invest in something they can touch," Rokugawa, 35, said yesterday at a media conference.

Rokugawa plans to take his business "nationwide" next year and is considering entering the Hong Kong market, he said.

The machine offered 1 gram of gold for 6,800 yen ($82.30) yesterday. Gold traded at $1,362.45 per troy ounce at 10:52 a.m. in Tokyo, or about $44 a gram. The vending machine sells the precious metal in the form of coins and ingots, with weights ranging from a gram to a quarter of an ounce.

Japan has a vending machine for every 32 people, according to Bloomberg calculations. The nation posted 5.15 trillion yen in vending machine sales in 2009, about 45% more than the $42.9 billion revenue in the U.S., according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.

The most expensive item available in Rokugawa's machine yesterday was a quarter-ounce gold coin issued by the Canadian central bank, retailing for about $410. Rokugawa declined to say how much gold will be kept in the machine at any one time.

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