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Image: Pakutaso

Charges dropped against group that allegedly broke into vending machine after Noto earthquake

By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so the saying goes. But how desperate should times be when you’re allowed to break into a vending machine to get a drink? A recent incident in which evacuees did just that in the wake of the Note Earthquake prompted a debate about whether any time is desperate enough. At the same time, it also managed to provoke a conversation about journalistic integrity, too.

It all started with an article posted by Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which initially reported the incident on January 6. In it, the newspaper reported that a witness had testified that a vending machine at Anamizu High School had been broken into and its drinks and cash stolen.


The article wrote that, according to the 30-year-old witness and the school, the incident had occurred on the night of January 1, shortly after the earthquake, when about 100 people had evacuated to the school grounds in the wake of tsunami warnings. Around 8 p.m., the article stated, four or five men and women in their 40s or 50s pulled up in a car with a Kanazawa license plate, entered the school, which was reportedly locked up but accessible because its windows had shattered in the quake, and, citing “an emergency”, broke open the vending machine with a tool that looked like a chainsaw and stole the cash and drinks inside.

“A shrill noise echoed throughout the school,” the witness reportedly said. “The evacuation center became embroiled in panic, and nobody could stop them.” The principal of the school, Kenichi Shimazaki, was reported as saying, “This incident is unforgivable because it made the evacuees feels unsafe.” Together with the article was a photo of a vending machine that appeared to have been opened up and ripped apart.

However, another newspaper, Hokkoku Shimbun, presented a differing account of the events. On January 6, they reported that the alleged group had wrenched open the vending machine with a tool and set out the drinks for the evacuees. The newspaper reported speaking to the people who broke into the machine, who said, “We’re evacuees ourselves, and we checked with the people in charge whether we could break into the machine to supply drinks.” According to Hokkoku Shimbun, the local police were not considering it to be criminal activity.

Perhaps as a result of the questions that arose from their first article, and the Hokkoku Shimbun article reporting contrasting facts, the original Yomiuri Shimbun article disappeared with no notice from the newspaper (though it is preserved in Internet archives), and on January 20 they published a new article stating that Hokuriku Coca-Cola, the company that manages Coca-Cola vending machines in Ishikawa prefecture, filed a criminal complaint on January 18. According to the article, a representative said, “We had not given permission for the machine to be broken into. Just because an emergency situation has occurred does not always mean such actions are allowed.”


Notably, this article omits any mention of cash being stolen, but reports that the drinks were “removed and distributed to the evacuees, and the machine was destroyed without permission from the company or the school.” The prefectural police, it was reported, were speaking to people associated with the incident in order to determine if it was a case of property damage.

It then continued by stating that a group of four or five men and women, citing “an emergency”, broke into the vending machine around 8 p.m. on January 1 using a tool, destroyed the interior, and removed the drinks to distribute to the evacuees. There was no further mention of a car with a Kanazawa license plate, though the article did reiterate that the school was locked up, in spite of broken glass providing access.

The article lastly reported that at the time, there were no teachers or administrators on campus, and therefore no one to give permission to break into the machine. The principal said that he “only heard after the fact from an acquaintance that the expensive vending machine had been broken without permission.”

A follow-up article was then published by Yomiuri Shimbun on January 23, which reported that a woman confessed to breaking open the vending machine and apologized to Hokuriku Coca-Cola by phone, stating, “I wasn’t in my right mind after the earthquake. There were people who had evacuated with their children, so I came up with the idea to give them water. I’m very sorry.” Apparently, she also offered to reimburse the company, but a representative from Hokuriku Coca-Cola is quoted as saying the company will not be demanding repayment for damages and won’t be filing a criminal complaint against her, because “it was a case of unusual circumstances right after an earthquake.”

It was also revealed by Yomiuri that two other vending machines were also pried open and their contents distributed to the evacuees, but the companies that own them, Megmilk Snow and Meiji, have not stated whether they will file for damages or not.

Following the report that Hokuriku Coca-Cola will not be pressing damages, online reactions have included:

“I appreciate Coca-Cola’s generosity and thoughtfulness.”

“Well, Coca-Cola does donate tens of thousands bottles of Irohasu water immediately after earthquakes. This vending machine incident shows that they’re a wonderful company.”

“Since it was an emergency, that’s the response I’d expect from them.”

“I think I’ll have a Coke today.”

“I think it’s magnificent that they won’t be asking for compensation because of this special circumstances. However, it’d be a problem if people start thinking they can break into vending machines in emergencies.”

“Good job, Coca-Cola. The person who called to apologize and offer repayment is also impressive.”

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun via Internet Archives, Hokkoku Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, Yomiuri Shimbun (1, 2), Twitter/@livedoornews

Images: Pakutaso

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Which parts of Ishikawa are OK to travel to after Noto quake? Government shares guideline map

-- We try fresh orange juice squeezed for us by a vending machine in Saitama【Taste test】

-- Japanese vending machines now have the strangest thing we never knew we needed: hot bottled water

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Whoever reported this as "theft" needs their name distributed in their community. Brainless jerk. Clearly the group were simply seeking to provide drinks for the victims.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

I understand taking the drinks, but not the money.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

If there was no running water or drinking water then I understand.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

This is another reason I will continue to be a Coca-Cola customer

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Aside from the suffering of the victims / evacuees of the quake, the biggest downer of this story is that the Yomiuri Shimbun published a main article without verifying the facts.

Then to just cowardly withdraw the article with no apology/explanation as if nothing happened.

Not the first time Yomiuri has played it's hand like this.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

In the end Coke has the right to press charges or not. But the evacuees should not have broken into the machine. This occurred on the night of the disaster. Skipping a few meals or drinks would not have ended their life. It was not a desperate moment. So when the next disaster happens it's OK to break into a conbini if your a little hungry or thirsty?

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Doesn't vending machines dispose their products free of charge in emergency cases such as earthquakes, tsunami, etc?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Does anyone else think there should be a law that vending machines are a source of emergency drinks?

In situations where there is wide-spread catastrophic damage to infrastructure, I mean.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't get it. Why not just buy the drinks from the machine? Nobody had money? Most of these machines operate cashless too. So no excuses.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


"Why not just buy the drinks from the machine?"

No electricity?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If it’d happened a couple of days after the earthquake then I’d complain understand, but these weren’t desperate, dying victims. They’re thieves.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I understand taking the drinks, but not the money.

Perhaps the ATMs weren't working.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If it’d happened a couple of days after the earthquake then I’d complain understand, but these weren’t desperate, dying victims. They’re thieves.

The article states:

On January 6, they reported that the alleged group had wrenched open the vending machine with a tool and set out the drinks for the evacuees.

It hardly a sounds like they were enriching themselves. I don't know the exact circumstances why they decided to open this exact machine and take a few thousand yen's worth of drinks, but they're hardly major thieves. Coca Cola made the right decision.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i think many "Commenters" here do not really understand the situation that people were/are in over in the Noto area.

Do you think your PayPay would still be working or other Keitei payment system ?

Do you think the ATMs would still be operational ?

Imagine the same thing happening to Tokyo, knocking out pretty much the whole Communication network - then what ? Perhaps you should go off any invest in a bolt cutter... just in case ? Or maybe, you've stocked up already with an emergency supply of bottled water and foods ? Or perhaps, you will keep a stash of cash around the house ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or maybe, you've stocked up already with an emergency supply of bottled water and foods ? Or perhaps, you will keep a stash of cash around the house ?

None of which would be of any use to you if the house has collapsed and the water/food/cash is under a ton of rubble.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves.

I’d like to teach the world to sing (sing with me) in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. That’s the real thing.

I’d like to teach the world to sing (what the world wants today) in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

It’s the real thing. Coke is what the world wants today. Coca-Cola is the real thing. Coke is what the world wants today. Coca-Cola is the real thing.


The year was 1971 when this world shaking people binding fuzzy ball of love advertisement brought the world to knees in tears of joy and friendship. Don't feel embarrassed if you are crying now. Just send a crate to Noto.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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