We had our reasons to be suspicious, but it turns out this is a great idea.

Every year, Japanese vending machines pull off the extremely cool trick of offering hot drinks. It’s one of the greatest ideas in the food/beverage sector, and a can or bottle of hot coffee, hot green tea, or even hot Coca-Cola Company shrimp bisque is a tasty way to warm yourself up during a chilly commute or sightseeing excursion.

But recently, we spotted something we’d never seen before: a vending machine selling hot tennensui.

▼ A 500-milliliter (16.9-ounce) bottle of hot tennensui (center), between a bottle of hot hojicha (roasted green tea) and hot coffee.

We didn’t quite know what to make of this, and for several reasons. First off, tennensui is just the Japanese word for “natural spring water.” In other words, the machine was selling hot bottled water.

But we weren’t 100-percent sure we could trust our eyes, because this was a Cheerio vending machine. The beverage company is based in Osaka, Japan’s comedy capital, and its quirky sense of humor is how we one time ended up drinking a bottle of what looked just like soy sauce, but turned out to actually be orange soda.

▼ Cherio’s Nanchatte Orange

But Cheerio seems to know its reputation precedes it, and so the sample in the machine’s display case had an additional notice promising that it really is just hot water.

▼ ただのお湯です = Just hot water

The company is currently only selling hot water from its machines in central and west Japan, but when we happened across one, we were both baffled and intrigued. So we popped a 100-yen (US$0.91) coin into the slot, pressed the button, and made the purchase.

Sure enough, it was pleasantly warm to the touch, driving the wintry cold out of our palm and fingertips.

With no added flavorings or color, Cheerio’s hot water is completely clear, and tastes just like you’d expect water to, just warmer.

▼ Taste tester K. Masami

Honestly, as weird as the concept initially seemed, hot water isn’t half bad. As Masami sipped, she could feel her body warming up from the inside, a comfortable, relaxing sensation. At the same time, she didn’t have any guilt from the sugar and caffeine content that other hot drinks are so-often packed with. Cheerio itself says a major reason it’s started selling hot water from its vending machines is to provide an option for people who aren’t just cold and thirsty, but health-conscious too.

Alternatively, we suppose hot vending machine water bottles could be used in the complete opposite way too. While bottles of tea and cans of coffee are easy to come by in Japanese vending machines and convenience stores, it’s still usually cheaper to make your own from tea bags or coffee packs, which some aficionados also believe taste better. So if you’ve made a thermos full of higher-quality tea to take with you for the day by tossing a tea bag into the container at home, then later find yourself craving a refill, a bottle of hot water is a handy thing to be able to procure while you’re out and about.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]