MANABINK

Japan — a Nation of Vending Machines!

Japans First Sliced Apple Vending Machine

Inside the Kasumigaseki subway station in the very center of Tokyo, a one-of-a-kind vending machines selling sliced apples catches the eye of passers-by. “We want people to be able to enjoy eating them as a breakfast substitute, or for snacks,” says the operator. The apples, cut into easy-to-eat sections, are shipped to Tokyo daily from Aomori Prefecture in the country’s northeast. The apples are preserved in a fluid containing vitamin C and calcium to prevent oxidation and maintain freshness for up to 11 days from the time they are packaged, with no artificial coloring or preservatives. They sell for 190 yen ($2) per bag, in two types — peeled and unpeeled.

Natto Online

Natto, a traditional Japanese staple food, is created when soybeans ferment and take on a sticky consistency, which considerably boosts their nutrient contents. This machine outside the natto shop makes it easy for people to buy the products. Sendai-ya, the operator, is based in Yamanashi Prefecture but operates two shops in the Tokyo area. The company has diversified to develop and market a variety of products, including natto donuts (in eight tasty flavors), natto snacks and others. It also operates an online shop (www.sendainatto.jp), from which it offers products via the Web.

Going Bananas

In June 2010, Japan’s first vending machine selling bananas made its appearance in Tokyo’s Shibuya station. It is operated by the famous Dole fruit company. The accompanying publicity suggested people can partake “when they don’t have time for breakfast, or whenever they feel hungry.” The machine’s removal slot is lined with sponge material at the bottom to protect the merchandise from bruising. Customers have a choice of one banana for 130 yen (about $1.60) or a bunch of four to five for 390 yen (about $4.80). The sweet Lakatan-type bananas are tasty, a good source of energy that makes them popular with athletes.

Tai-yaki Vending Machine

Tai-yaki, grilled waffles in the shape of a sea bream filled with a sweet red bean paste, are a popular confection in Japan. Although typically eaten warm, these are stored at 5°Centigrade in the vending machine, yet they are still tasty. They can also be taken home and warmed up in a toaster oven. This machine, located in front of Tokyo’s Shimbashi station, offers tai-yaki with red beans, chocolate or custard fillings. Price is two for 380 yen (about $4.60) or three for 570 yen (about $7.00).

Fund-raising Vending Machine

Originally conceived last year by Heartful Vendor (www.hfv.jp), a charitable NPO based in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, these machines have now begun to appear on the campuses of universities and premises of companies around the country. The buyer of the drink has the option of selecting a charitable donation of either 100 or 10 yen ($1.20 or $.12). The donation can also be made by deduction from the change from the purchase.