Mr. Sato puts the culinary skills of Lawson’s Karaage-kun Robo to a taste test.

In just the past few days, there have been two extremely exciting pieces of news from the world of Japanese robotics. One is that there’s a full-sized moving Gundam statue coming to Yokohama, and the other, which is no less important, is that Japanese engineers have designed a fried-chicken cooking robot.

While the Gundam won’t be installed until 2020, the fried chicken robot is fully operational, and we sent our ace reporter Mr. Sato out to try it for himself, and also to create a user’s manual so that you can too.

The robotic employee works at the TOC Osaki branch on convenience store chain Lawson, not far from Tokyo’s Osaki Station. Called the Karaage-kun Robo (since it cooks Karaage-kun, Lawson’s brand of bite-sized Japanese-style fried chicken), its mission is immediately apparent, thanks to the bright red comb-like protrusion extending from the top of the robo chef.

To use the machine, first grab an order card out of rack attached to its front. Three varieties are available: original flavor on the left, “Red” (i.e. spicy) in the middle, and Hokkaido Cheese on the right.

▼ Mr. Sato’s original flavor Karaage-kun cost him 216 yen (US$1.90)

Take your card up to the counter, where a human clerk will ring you up. We’re guessing this is because Lawson is worried that if you give your money to the robot directly, it’ll just waste it all at the pachinko parlor (which, with all its flashily decorated machines, probably feels like a tempting hostess bar to a robot).

The human clerk will also give you a paper container which you fold open and then scan with the Karaage-kun Robo’s barcode reader.

Reading the code lets you open a door on the front of the unit, and that’s where you set the container down, with its opening facing upwards to catch the glorious rain of fried chicken to come.

The cooking process is amazingly fast, finishing in roughly a single minute. It’s honestly about as fast as getting a cup of coffee from a machine, and when it’s done, the Japanese text できあがりました/Dekiagarimashita/”Your food is ready” appears on screen.

Then all that’s left to do is open the door, take out the container, and dig in!

Having never had robot-made fried chicken before, we weren’t sure how it would turn out. Would it be super-oily from having to use a ton of oil in order for the automated process to work? Or might it be dry and stale, owing to an inability to properly measure how long the chicken should be cooked?

Happily, both of those fears ended up being unnecessary. There’s no greasy glisten to the exterior of Karaage-kun Robo’s chicken, which has a perfectly crisp coating. The meat inside, meanwhile, is flavorful and juicy.

The ordinary Karaage-kun that Lawson sells, kept warm under heat lamps after being made in large batches, is plenty tasty for a convenience store snack. This made-to-order version though, in Mr. Sato’s mind, is on a whole other level, and something he strongly encourages any fans of deep-fried bird to try.

Currently, the one-and-only Karaage-kun Robo is scheduled to work from December 11 until December 28 at the TOC Osaki Lawson. Oddly enough, while the store itself is open 24 hours a day, the Karaage-kun Robo has a set shift, working from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until December 16, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. starting on December 17. We’re not sure if that’s to give technicians time to check the machine’s performance and restock it with ingredients, or simply because the store’s manager doesn’t want its robot employee to become disgruntled from overwork.

Convenience store information
Lawson (TOC Osaki branch) / ローソンTOC大崎店
Address: Tokyo-to, Shingawa-ku, Osaki 1-6-1
Open 24 hours

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where Karaag-kun Red remains his favorite flavor.

[ Read in Japanese ]