Unlike most other countries, Japan is dotted with thousands of vending machines that allow consumers to buy a wide range of products at any time of the day or night, eliminating the need for inconvenient trips to the store.

These days, you can get practically anything out of them: alcohol, soft drinks, cigarettes, instant noodles, "natto" (fermented soybeans) or even underwear. And the machines themselves are becoming ever more sophisticated as they are transformed by state-of-the-art technologies.

Following are some questions and answers about vending machines: