It’s no secret that Japan is well endowed with vending machines offering a colorful variety of products. While beverage vending machines are naturally the most common, you may occasionally come across one stocked with hot food products like noodle dishes or hamburgers.
While such vending machines were countless in number during the Show era (1926-1989), they have become remarkably scarce in recent days. When I heard there was such a hamburger vending machine at a drive-in eatery in Saitama prefecture, I didn’t hesitate to hit the road and get a taste of this fading culture.
The vending machine can be found at “24 Hour Auto Restaurant Tekken Taro”, located in Gyoda city. While this ‘restaurant’ is staffed, all food is offered via one of the many vending machine lined up inside.
After stepping inside we scanned the mechanical precession of vending and game machines. Soba, udon, toast…and there it was – hamburger!
Upon feeding money to slot a countdown timer appeared and about half a minute later a hamburger box appeared before me. The box itself was strangely hot, likely because it was microwaved together with the hamburger. Then it all came rushing back to me: this is the same feeling of the heated vending machine hamburger cardboard boxes of my youth!
Decorated with no more than ketchup and cheese (I’m not sure what happened to the vegetables on the box), the taste was also the same of days past: simple yet delicious!
Helping myself to a bowl of udon next, I recalled stopping at a similar vending machine on the way home from fishing at the port when I was a child.
I decided to top off my vending machine course meal with a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. When I pushed the button an extremely hot block of aluminum foil came out. Perhaps instead of a microwave there is a small toaster oven operating inside this machine? Truly mysterious.
While it’s easy to understand why the machines would disappear so rapidly in a modern society of convenience stores and fast food, I was satisfied with my sentimental vending machine meal.