TOKYO (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Japan has been known for its quirky vending machines that offer a wide range of products. Recently, an unusual vending machine has been gaining popularity: bear meat.
The vending machine, which was installed in November 2022, is located near the entrance to Tazawako Ichi local product shop in Semboku, a city in north Japan’s Akita Prefecture.
The bears are captured in the mountains off the city by members of a local hunting club and processed at a slaughterhouse.
The vending machine was installed by people associated with restaurant Soba Goro and aims to make the locally produced bear meat as a souvenir from the prefecture, reported the Mainichi Shimbun on Sunday.
It displays pictures of lean and fatty bear meat, which costs 2,200 yen (S$22) for 250g.
There are signs on the vending machine that say “Open 24 hours”, “Black bear” and “Bear meat”.
The product is mainly purchased by passengers of the shinkansen, also known as Japan’s bullet trains. On average, 10 to 15 packs of meat are reportedly sold by the machine each week.
There have also been inquiries from people in the Kanto region around Tokyo who want to buy the meat by mail, said the news report.
“(Bear meat) tastes clean, and it doesn’t get tough, even when cold. It can be enjoyed in a wide range of dishes, from stew to steaks,” said a Soba Goro representative in the news report.
Bear meat is not unusual in Japan and eaten in various parts of the country, including Kyoto, Hokkaido and the Aomori Prefecture.
Japan, which has the world’s highest density of vending machines per capita, also offers other meat on these machines such as whale meat, beef and venison.