Legend has it that in the urban center of Osaka there sits a vending machine so cheap that it boggles the mind. Here a tasty beverage can be purchased for a measly 10 yen (US$0.11).
RocketNews24 had sent a reporter, Usagi Yumeno, to Fukushima Ward in the port town in search of this machine.
Before hearing Usagi’s report it’s important to know that Osaka has some unique characteristics apart from other regions of Japan. To put it as simply as possible, it’s like an alternate universe where New Jersey was mostly occupied by Japanese people.
Women in their 40s and 50s confidently and boisterously pick up groceries while dressed in leopard print attire as their pot-bellied husbands wear full tracksuits while buying a six-pack. It’s a place where famously healthy Japanese cuisine like sushi and natto often takes a backseat to hearty battered and fried foods like takoyaki and okonomiyaki.
Although every region of Japan has its own unique takes on the language, the Osaka dialect has a rather blunt feeling to it. Sentences are occasionally verbally punctuated by “yan” which would be equivalent to an American “know what I’m sayin’” or a British “innit.”
So as our Tokyoite Usagi went in search of the 10 yen vending machine, she was also venturing into a strange new land.
In true RocketNews24 fashion, Usagi hadn’t bothered checking where the vending machine was actually located before heading out. All she knew was from rumors that it was located near the Osaka Central Wholesale Market, a sprawling (300,000 square meter) indoor market complex. It was near a place called “Osakaland Eggs.”
Upon entering the market it also dawned on her that she has absolutely no sense of direction. Nevertheless, she took a deep breath and wandered aimlessly into the giant facility.
And she wandered.
Getting nowhere, Usagi spotted a sexy mother pushing a stroller around. Thinking it was hopeless but without any other option, she decided to ask the random pretty woman if she knew where a random store was.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where a place called Osakaland Eggs is?” Usagi asked.
“Osakaland Eggs? Yeeeeaaaaahhh…. um ya mean Osaka Eggland? Y’wanna just go way alllll the way straight, know what I mean? It’s at the lights.” replied the lady.
Following the hot mama’s mercifully simple instructions, Usagi proceeded to go way all the way straight. She eventually reached the traffic lights… and realized she didn’t know where to go from there.
Panicking, she began looking around for something like Osakaland Eggland or whatever. Then suddenly she heard a voice called out from the street.
“Hey lady! Ya still lost or somethin’? Look there! It’s the green building on yer left.”
It was the sexy mama from before, driving home from the market where – as she had explained to Usagi, a total stranger earlier – her husband works.
“Wow, so after already helping me once, this nice lady saw me again and stopped her car in the middle of the street to help me out some more. What a friendly city,” Usagi thought as she waved goodbye.
Looking to her left she could see the machine brightly decorated with cats and standing there proudly among the rusty metal siding of the markets proclaiming on its sign “Boys and Girls, the New Landmark of Fukushima: 10 Yen Vending Machine.” This was definitely the spot.
There was a row of buttons all labeled 10 yen, but there were no sample cans on display. There was just a sign saying; “Enjoy whatever comes out. Please let many customers purchase the 10 yen drinks and limit yours to five per person.”
Usagi wondered what would possibly come out at such a low price, when a old lady rode up on a bicycle. As if she’d been doing it her whole life, the woman flicked a 10 yen coin in, pulled out the beverage, and tossed it into the basket on her bike. She repeated this several times with the fluidity of a professional dancer or athlete.
“Do you often buy drinks from here?” Usagi asked.
“Yup, only if I got the 10 yen coins lying around,” the lady replied.
Usagi glanced at the basket of cans that the woman pulled out of the machine. The can read Fauchon Paris – Honey Tea.
Sophisticated, and only 10 yen?!
“Jeeze, this basket’s heavy,” the lady complained as she rode off and bid farewell. It was Usagi’s turn to push the 10 yen drink button.
Just as she thought, a can of Fouchon Paris – Honey Tea came out. Thinking this was some kind of scam, she immediately opened it up and drank it. Sure enough, it was delicious as it should be. It was rich, creamy, and sort of candy-like.
So, why was it only 10 yen?
Right next to this machine stood another. “Moms and Pops, the New Landmark of Fukushima: How’s bout a drink?” it advertised and had similar unmarked button with 30 yen (US$0.32) for “whatever comes out” marked on it. Usagi excitedly threw in some coins and pushed the button.
Out popped a Summer Honey Lemon drink by Suntory – not bad. Aside from these two drinks, the regular selection of beverages was also surprisingly cheap. What business model is this machine following?
The explanation written on it said they was cheap for “a variety of reasons (not in season etc.)” but that hardly seems enough to justify such low prices.
That mystery would have to wait for another day. The rumored machine was found, and it was time to return home. Home where – for better or for worse – people mind their own business and pay full price for their canned drinks.
Original Article & Photos: Usagi Yumeno
▼ No special discounts here. Everyday is 10 yen.
▼ Here is the 10 yen machine.
▼ Here’s the line-up.
▼ Here’s the 30 yen machine.
▼ And its line-up.
▼ The expiry date for the Fauchon Paris was okay. (4 May, 2013)
▼ Tasted good. *glug*
▼ Time for a 30 yen drink!
▼ Honey/Lemon! Nice!
[ Read in Japanese ]