Convenience stores really have become an integral part of our lives, haven’t they? We think nothing of seeing them on every street corner, and I’m sure we’ve all come to rely on them in times of emergencies (like when you’re in dire need of Häagen-Dazs cookies & cream ice cream at two in the morning). Well, convenience stores may be practically ubiquitous, but we have to say this particular one took us by surprise. It’s certainly not like any convenience store we’ve ever seen!

As you can see in the picture above, the sign makes it appear at first glance as if it’s an ordinary shop from major Japanese convenience chain Family Mart. But far from it; this shop located at Nakamozu Station in Osaka is what you could call a completely new “species” of convenience store.

This is what the full view of the shop looks like.

It’s one large vending machine that functions as a convenience store and naturally, since it’s a vending machine, it’s fully automated and unmanned. Family Mart calls it the ASD — the “Automatic Super Delice”, and they’re now looking to get these mini-shops installed in various locations such as offices, apartment buildings, highway rest areas and even schools and hospitals.

▼The ASD machine.

ASD machine

photo: Family Mart

▼And some of the items the machines are stocked with.

ASD lineupphoto: Family Mart

What could make the ASD particularly appealing to office building owners or other public facility operators is the fact there is no initial cost for installing the machine. (Of course, that doesn’t mean the machine can be used for free. According to Family Mart’s ASD web page, there is apparently a separate contract for operating the machine, but specific fees and terms are not mentioned.)

Once the machine is installed and the contract is in place, you have hassle-free, 24 hour access to a wide variety of products from the usual snacks and beverages to sandwiches and rice balls, as well as Family Mart’s special seasonal desserts, without having to leave the comfort of your working or living area! And since freshness is key, Family Mart makes sure fresh rice balls and sandwiches are delivered every weekday, while also ensuring that the machines are stocked with their newest and most popular line of products, so it really is like having your own little private convenience store.

▼An example of Family Mart’s seasonal desserts available from the ASD machines

ASD dessertphoto: Family Mart

Although unusual vending machines are nothing new in Japan, the Japanese Internet community seems to have been duly impressed with the ASD machine, responding with comments such as:

“I seriously want this at my school!”

“My, how times have changed.”

“Where can I find one of these?”

“Definitely interesting.”

“I don’t think the machines carry their popular Famichiki (Family Mart Fried Chicken).”

“A vending machine called Family Mart…”

So, what do you think? A machine like this at the workplace could certainly be hugely convenient, especially if your work location or schedule makes it hard to step out of the office and grab a snack. It’s also easy to imagine such a machine being a godsend to patients’ families at hospitals.

All I can say is, if we had one of these in our office building, I’d probably be tempted to try all of their seasonal desserts… maybe it’s a good thing after all there isn’t one nearby!

Source: Twitter @sokaton via Byokan Sunday