Any well-stocked Japanese kitchen needs a bottle of dashi, a salty cooking stock usually made with dried bonito. Dashi is sometimes combined with soy sauce, and the resulting mixture, called dashi-joyu, is commonly used to prepare soups and season a number of ingredients.
As such a ubiquitous part of Japanese cooking, you can buy dashi-joyu at any supermarket. And if you happen to be at a certain few parking lots in Hiroshima or Okayama Prefectures, now you can get it from a vending machine, too.
On July 12, a new vending machine was placed in the Mitsui Repark coin-operated parking lot in Okayama City’s Togiyacho neighborhood. The machine sells 500-milliliter plastic bottles of Dashi Doraku-brand dashi-joyu, produced by the company Nitanda Shoyu on Etajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.
The parking lot sees many customers, due to its location on a major commuting thoroughfare, and also being surrounded by a number of popular restaurants and bars. “A lot of people who are passing by stop and snap a picture of the machine on their cell phones,” explained a representative from Mitsui Reality Chugoku, the company that manages the lot. “Many of them buy a bottle as a novelty, something to talk with their friends about. It’s especially handy for the husband who needs something to distract his wife from her anger after he’s been out drinking too late,” he added with a laugh.
Shoppers have a choice of two different types of dashi-joyu. The premium option is the version made with flying fish which costs 650 yen (US$6.50), while the more economical kelp variety is just 450 yen.
Although the machine is the first of its kind in Okayama Prefecture, Mitsui Reality Chugoku has four similarly equipped parking lots in neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture with a total of seven dashi-joyu vending machines. The busiest location sells as many as 200 bottles a day, with customers lining up to purchase a bottle.
Mitsui Reality Chugoku has plans to expand its parking operations in Okayama, and given the popularity of their dashi-joyu vending machines so far, it’s likely we’ll see more of them as well. Just remember that while there’s no law against open containers of dashi-joyu in motor vehicles, it can be pretty pungent stuff, so wait until you get home to crack that bottle open.