Asahi Soft Drinks offers free Wi-Fi in vending machines
Japanese vending machines are the stuff of legend. Pocket-lint has bought all manner of things from street vending machines in Tokyo in our travels - noodles, plastic characters from the world of manga, cans of the deliciously named Pocari Sweat, a freshly pressed shirt (but not schoolgirl's used underwear, which is an urban myth) - so we're fully aware of their importance to the nation's culture, if somewhat kitsch.
However now, thanks to Asahi Soft Drinks, the man-sized cans will host an altogether more practical delight; free Wi-Fi.
The drinks company is to build into each of its vending machines a Wi-Fi router which will offer connection to Japanese network Freemobile. Those in the immediate vicinity can then hook up for free high-speed Internet access on their mobile devices or laptops for up to 30 minutes in one sitting. The router will also store localised content, such as shopping mall maps, regional information, tourist details, that sort of thing. Oh, and they will sell soft drinks, of course.
Asahi plans to roll out 1,000 of the machines imminently, with another 10,000 planned for the next five years. It'll take a while to replace its existing 250,000 vending machines nationwide, but if the scheme takes off, who knows?
We'd certainly love to see something similar hit the UK, but we'd have to have a national free Internet service first...