Shockingly, a Japanese company deems it’s possible for it to be too easy for people to get beer.

Japanese convenience stores are already amazing, what with their gorgeous science-themed desserts, innovative onigiri rice balls, and occasionally Super Mario-esque clerks. But this week, Japan with bated breath for its convenience stores to become even more awesome.

Last weekend, customers at a handful of 7-Eleven locations in Japan noticed a new piece of hardware inside the store: a self-serve beer machine. Similar to 7-Eleven’s wildly successful self-serve coffee lineup, the “Choi Nama” (roughly translating as “quick draft beer”) system’s design has customers purchasing an empty cup, then placing it under the tap and hitting the button for a pour. This isn’t some cheap, low-malt pseudo-beer either, but Ichiban Shibori, Kirin Beer’s flagship brew.

Posters announced a July 17 start date for the Choi Nama market test, and also the extremely affordable prices of just 100 yen (US$0.90), after tax, for a small cup, and 190 yen for a medium.

▼ A photo from the 7-Eleven branch in Tokyo’s Mitaka Mura 6-chome neighborhood

However, heartbreaking news came on what was supposed to be the first day for Choi Nama sales, as 7-Eleven announced that it was suspending the program before it even began. The decision was made by the chain’s central management, and a spokesperson for the company offered the vague explanation “We received a tremendous response from the announcement of the program, and thus anticipated a high demand, and have decided to suspend the program after consideration of the sales system and other factors.”

A profit-driven company not going through with a product/service because demand is too high is a serious head-scratcher, so the statement probably requires a little decoding before one can get to the actual reasons. Perhaps 7-Eleven’s concerns lie with specifically who it imagines might want to buy Choi Nama draft beer. Convenience stores aren’t just part of Japan’s pedestrian/mass transit-friendly urban landscape but also common in less developed areas where cars are the primary mode of transportation. Unlike canned beer, draft beer is something people purchase with the intent of consuming right away, and perhaps 7-Eleven worried that customers would drive up, buy a Choi Nama and down it in the parking lot, then get right back behind the wheel, leaving the program open for criticism as facilitating drunk driving.

▼ Is she smiling because she bought a fun-to-drive car, or because she just chugged a Choi Nama?

There’s also the fact that the pour is initiated by the customers themselves pressing a button on the machine, ostensibly leaving the employees busy to handle other tasks. Customers are supposed to purchase a special Choi Nama cup before pressing the button, but minors could theoretically stick any cup they wanted under the tap and get their glass of Kirin, which could lead to accusations of 7-Eleven contributing to underage drinking.

Granted, 7-Elevens, just like any other Japanese convenience stores, are generally stocked with large cooler cases of beer and canned cocktails, as well a modest selection of sake, wine, and hard liquor. Still, selling alcohol in closed packages at least presents the possibility that it’ going to be consumed after the customer arrives home and is done driving for the day. And though the existing age checks for customers buying booze are laughably easy to get around, letting anyone who wants beer get it with the push of a button, often out of the direct line of sight of the shop staff, is some pretty lax alcohol regulation even by Japanese standards.

Complaints such as these actually derailed a similar, now-defunct self-serve beer service 7-Eleven tried out in Thailand last autumn. Sadly for those who were looking forward to Choi Nama, 7-Eleven says it has no current plans to reinstate the stalled service, leaving it, for now, as an example of the time Japanese convenience stores, like Icarus of myth, flew too close to the sun in their pursuit of greatness.

Sources: Twitter/@ruby_luna_noir_ via IT Media, Thailand Hyperlinks via Hachima Kiko, IT Media (2),
Featured image: Twitter/@ma_bo_0jpy
Insert image: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where his thirst is approaching mythical levels in the midsummer heat.