We take a chance with a random selection from a machine that sells tarantulas and dung beetles for you to eat.

In a strange dichotomy, while Japan is packed with drink vending machines, ones that sell food are a lot harder to find. So when our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa was out and about in Tokyo’s Ueno neighborhood and happened across a machine stocked with not just one, but over two dozen kinds of munchies, he was pretty psyched!

Then when he got closer and realized that each and every one of those snacks is some kind of bug or insect, his excitement was quickly replaced with terror.

Looking over the options, which range in price from 480 to 2,000 yen (US$4.50-US$18.70), Seiji saw that his choices included beetles, grasshoppers, scorpions, and belostomatids. That last one might sound like the most appealing of the bunch, until you find out that belostomatids’ common names include “giant water bugs,” “alligator ticks,” and “toe-biters.”

Fortunately, Seiji was saved from having to make a difficult selection by the option to purchase a Fun Mystery Can, whose contents are a secret until you buy it, for 1,000 yen. Unfortunately, he was still sure of getting some kind of bug.

Still, Seiji felt it was his journalistic duty to find out what the Fun Mystery Can could contain, and so against his better judgement, he found himself feeding coins into the machine and pressing the button.

Retrieving his purchase from the slot, Seiji was overjoyed to find out he’d received a container of bamboo worms!

That may not sound like anything to be so happy about, but the other possibilities included dung beetles and tarantulas, so by comparison Seiji felt like he’d been pretty lucky. He’d even saved himself a nice chunk of change since the machine’s bamboo worms are usually priced at 1,600 yen.

Back home Seiji opened up the canister and removed the pouch of worms it contained. It turns out that inside that pouch is yet another pouch, which is finally where you’ll find your food.

▼ It’s kind of like saffron…if saffron was a bunch of tiny, creepy-looking bugs.

In a small act of mercy, Seiji wouldn’t be required to figure out how to cook the bamboo worms, since the machine’s bugs all come ready to eat. Seiji’s worms were already boiled and dried, so all he had to do was eat them.

▼ Which, in this case, is arguably much harder than the cooking part.

But again, Seiji is a journalist. “In the past, this is the part where I would have closed the bag, stuck it back in the container, and sealed it away,” Seiji recalls. “But through my experiences here at SoraNews24, I’m able to momentarily force myself to see these as just another snack food.”

▼ “I feel like I’ve lost something very important to my psyche.”

So how do they taste? Surprisingly normal. “They’re kind of like those little sardines they sell in snack pouches at Japanese convenience stores,” Seiji says. “They’re salty, and though they have just a tiny something to their flavor that makes you think you’re eating something strange, if you ate enough of them I think you’d get used to it enough that you wouldn’t even notice it anymore.”

Not that Seiji’s actually volunteering to eat that many bugs, though. Just, you know, it’s possible, theoretically.

Vending machine location
Located at:
Ameyoko Center Building / アメ横センタービル
Tokyo Kutsu Ryutsu Center Ueno Ameyoko entrance / 東京靴流通センター 上野アメ横店』横の入り口
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Ueno 4-7-8

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still remembers some of the gross stuff he learned in his college entomology class.

[ Read in Japanese ]