Fish vending machines a hit in Tokyo

Published on
February 24, 2017

A grilled flying fish inside a plastic bottle is an odd site. But when sold in a vending machine, it is interesting enough to make a quirky souvenir and a good advertisement. The company behind the idea describes it as “a little unusual fun vending machine.”

Nitanda Soy Sauce Ltd., based in Taishi, Hiroshima Prefecture, operates two Dashidouraku udon noodle shops in Kure City. The sales point of their shops is the broth, made from flying fish.

Soon after launching their restaurants, the company set up vending machines outside the shops to sell the dashi soup stock. By taking such an unusual marketing approach, the company has cut out the middle man and built up its name. After the original vending machines proved successful, the company added machines in Hiroshima City in 2012, and in front of Kure Station in 2013. Its bottles became a popular souvenir and garnered the company regular news coverage. The concept was extended around western Japan, including Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Okayama and Fukushima.

On 25 January of this year, the company announced that it was bringing its machines to four locations in Tokyo and one in Saitama Prefecture, also in the Kanto region.

Dashi soup stock is the foundation and source of the umami flavor of such popular Japanese dishes as miso soup, nabe (hotpot), oden, and udon. It is a common household ingredient typically sold in supermarkets.

The machines feature two varieties of dashi in 500 milliliter bottles: the regular, made from kombu (kelp) and shaved fermented bonito for JPY 700 (USD 6.19, EUR 5.82); and the premium, including 2soudabushi, shaved fermented bullet mackerel, for JPY 750 (USD 6.63, EUR 6.24). Both contain one grilled flying fish, which gives a unique flavor and fragrance to the soup stock, and has long been used in Kyushu.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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