More people will be able to weather sudden showers during the rainy season as DyDo Drinco Inc. announced last week it’s further expanding its network of vending machines offering free umbrellas.

Sixteen prefectures across Japan will be home to the machines, which distribute umbrellas left behind in trains and stations.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) are among the seven railway companies which provide left-behind umbrellas for the machines.

The Osaka-based beverage company has been providing free umbrellas from its drink vending machines since 2015. The coverage area was initially limited to the city but has gradually expanded, with the company aiming to run the service at up to 500 vending machines in 16 prefectures in 2018.

Of the total, 40 percent of the umbrellas are provided by DyDo and the rest — approximately 4,000 a year — are of unknown ownership, sourced from railway companies.

The free umbrellas are stored in a box attached to the side of DyDo vending machines. According to a 2016 survey by the company, 70 percent of those who borrowed the umbrellas eventually returned them.

Among the 16 prefectures nationwide, Fukuoka, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Niigata have been added to the network since last week.

“Vending machines are our important assets. We have tried to return the goodwill of our customers in local communities through them,” said DyDo spokesman Motoki Tada. Sales from its 280,000 vending machines account for more than 80 percent of the drink company’s total sales — much higher than the industry average of around 30 percent. The umbrella initiative was the brainchild of one of its vending machine replenishers, he added.

Umbrellas are the most likely items to be left at railway facilities. A fiscal 2017 tally by Sagami Railway Co., which serves Yokohama and surrounding areas in Kanagawa Prefecture, showed they had accounted for 23 percent of all lost items, at a total of 82,682, followed by bags and envelopes at 9.3 percent and cash at 7.1 percent. The company is not among the seven railway operators providing umbrellas to DyDo.

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