Photo/IllutrationAn umbrella stand is set up at a DyDo Drinco vending machine. More than half of the umbrellas used in the service were lost on train cars and in stations. (Provided by DyDo Drinco Inc.)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A free umbrella rental service that makes use of a beverage maker’s plethora of vending machines has spread across Japan in time for the rainy season now drenching the country.

DyDo Drinco Inc.’s rental umbrella project, which started in Osaka in 2015, expanded to Nagano, Fukuoka, Yamanashi and Niigata prefectures in May and June this year.

A total of around 500 vending machines offer the umbrellas in residential and business areas of 16 prefectures. Each machine has seven umbrellas on the side.

More than half of the brollies were left behind in train cars and stations, and were donated by private railways, as well as East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and West Japan Railway Co. (JR West).

DyDo Drinco’s logo stickers appear on the handles of the umbrellas to identify them as rentals.

The vending machines do not have anti-theft equipment, but the company asks renters to return the umbrellas after their use in sudden downpours and other emergency situations.

In the Kansai area, the return rate was about 70 percent in 2016, DyDo Drinco said.

The company has installed about 280,000 vending machines around Japan, which account for about 80 percent of its domestic beverage sales.

But sales have recently been sluggish, and the overall number of vending machines has been declining across the nation, according to Japan Vending System Manufactures Association.

Although people do not need to buy drinks to rent the umbrellas, the company expects the system to enhance its brand image and encourage people to purchase drinks out of gratitude for the umbrellas.