Don’t bother with cans of coke or bottled water, Japanese vending machines have much more to offer these days.
With a chilly fall breeze rushing through Japan, the country’s vending machines are starting to fill with hot drinks as they do every year, and bottles of warm tea or cans of hot coffee are available from just about any street corner. But in Japan, the innovation never stops, and in recent years that has meant a growing trend in the world of vending machines: canned soup. Starting with creamed corn soup (now widely available), savory side dishes of all kinds have begun to pop up with regularity in the millions of vending machines that permeate the country of Japan, from vegetable medleys to clam-filled miso soup, and some of the options are even a little wacky. Last winter, vending machines featured strange options like canned shark fin soup, and canned mapo tofu soupーhere are just a few of our favorites available this year.
1. Ippudo’s Tonkotsu Ramen Broth ・ New, for These Cold Autumn Days
Ever been standing on a train platform, and suddenly been struck by an irresistible ramen craving you just can’t shake? Well, some Japanese train stations actually have ramen shop kiosks right on the platform, but for those times when the only thing in sight is a simple vending machine, well, you’re actually in luck! Popular ramen chain Ippudo has locations all over the world, and brand new this year (2021), they now sell their soup in cans from vending machines only on JR East station platforms. In this special partnership, JR passengers can purchase cans of “Tonkotsu Ramen Soup,” a hot drink based on Ippudo’s exceedingly popular original recipe, which uses pork bones to create a rich, umami-filled broth. Ramen fans, rejoice.
Ostensibly, the cans of ramen soup are only available from special vending machines on JR East station platforms, but a quick check will find that interested ramen addicts can also buy the product from the vending machine website and directly from Ippudo’s own webshop, too.
2. “Kare na Kibun” Curry ・ Is Curry Really a Drink?
Earlier this summer, curry fans were thoroughly intrigued when drink manufacturer Pokka Sapporo released their new product, which they named “Kare na Kibun” (カレーな気分/translating to something like “in the mood for curry”). Due to the popularity of the local curry chain named “Kare wa Nomimono” (カレーは飲み物/literally “curry is a drink”), the curry-eaters of Japan had already been primed to consider curry a food with some drink potential, but this new can available in common vending machines might just make that dream a reality. During the cold winter nights soon coming to Japan, the extra spice found in a can of curry might be just the thing to warm you right to the tips of your toes. The cans are marked “medium spicy.”
3. Ginger Soymilk Soup ・ Soup for Women?
While the first two soup cans have certainly made a splash among the netizens of Japan, our third choice is a newcomer that has slipped onto the scene without much fanfare, but with some clear potential. The simple, creamy “Ginger Soymilk Soup” is just what it says, and the label seems to promise that the savory drink will keep you warm, if the cutesy illustration of a smiling young lady in a toasty winter coat is anything to go by. While the marketing seems to be a little unnecessarily targeted towards young women, we feel sure that people of all ages and genders can warm their frozen fingers drinking this unique canned soup.
All three of these hot canned soups are available in just seconds from a vending machine near you, for the fairly reasonable price of 150 yen eachーperfect for those of us who just can’t resist Japan’s many unique limited-time-only food products. Interested soup drinkers should be able to find these particular products in Acure vending machines, right on the platform at your nearest JR East train station. Cheers to warm hands and surprisingly savory refreshments!
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