Ordering Food Using Automatic Ticket Machines In Japan

Whether you’re eating at a restaurant or buying from a food stall in Japan, ordering food using ticket machines is common.

The first time I encountered a restaurant automatic ticket machine was during the 2018 trip to Japan. We had a morning flight back to Manila and we left the hotel without breakfast. By the time we got to the airport, we were starving. Not all of the restaurants were open at 7.00 a.m. and, among the few that were open, the one with the most interesting-looking food had a ticket machine.

My friend, Kat, and I marveled at the technology and efficiency. You know how a lot of misunderstanding can happen when you don’t speak the local language and the waiter doesn’t speak your language. With a ticket machine, nothing gets lost in translation.

How to use a restaurant / food stall ticket machine

Ordering takoyaki at a food stall in Dotonbori using a ticket machine
Ordering takoyaki at a food stall in Dotonbori using a ticket machine

During the 2019 trip to Japan with my family, we encountered ticket machines not only in restaurants but in food stalls too.

For people who are at ease with modern technology, using the ticket machine is pretty intuitive. Most machines have options for viewing the menu in various languages. In addition to Japanese (the default, naturally), there are buttons to switch to English, Chinese or Korean. I am presuming that most tourists in Japan understand at least one of these three languages so those are the options I saw in most ticket machines.

There are photos of every item on the menu and the price for each is clearly indicated. Just press the button for the item you want, insert the bill in the cash slot and your order is placed. Your ticket and exact change will be spewed out by the machine. Hand the ticket to the food attendant and just wait for your food.

Restaurent food ticket machine in Japan

For best experience (and so you don’t inconvenience the people behind you in the queue), note the price of each food item you want, make a mental calculation of the total price and prepare the bill before you start pressing buttons. See, if you press the buttons then take too much time rummaging through your wallet for the correct bill, the order will be canceled and you have to repeat the process all over.

There are machines for buying train tickets too

This precaution of preparing the bill first before pressing buttons applies to machines for buying train tickets (or topping up ICOCA cards, in our case) too.

There are automatic machines too for foreign currency exchange

Oh, this was a real convenience. In Vietnam and in Taiwan, we were forever looking for foreign currency exchangers. In Vietnam, especially, I had to research which exchangers gave the best rates. Most times, the location of these money exchangers were too far for walking and, when I factored in the transportation cost, it made more sense to go somewhere nearer where the rates were not as good.

Automatic foreign exchange machine in Japan

In Osaka, foreign currency exchange machines were everywhere — even inside convenience stores. They work pretty much like restaurant ticket machines. Choose your language, choose the currency you want to change to yen, drop the bill in the slot and the machine will discharge the equivalent amount in yen.

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