One noodle-dispensing vending machine in the north of Japan is so beloved that you can now buy it in dessert form with a special box.

Japan is no stranger to vending machines that dispense hot food. In fact, that they’ve been around for such a long time that several earlier models, particularly those manufactured by the Fuji Electric company, are now considered to be retro reminders of an earlier time wherever they’re spotted.

Our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi had heard of one especially popular retro vending machine in the northern prefecture of Akita and decided to pay it a visit for herself. She headed to the roadside rest stop known as Michi no Eki Akita-Minato, which was just outside of Akita City. There in the Port Tower Selion building of the complex was stationed a hot udon and soba vending machine…along with the unexpected discovery of udon soup-flavored pound cakes being sold with packaging lovingly crafted to be an exact replica of said machine!

▼ This is the packaging of the pound cake–not a photo of the actual vending machine itself!

The pound cake is being sold for a limited time for 1,080 yen (US$10.40). No matter how you look at it the box is a beautiful representation of a vending machine–and not just any machine, but the exact one stationed a few meters away.

Taking a closer look at the packaging, Saya noted the minute details on the box. A hot bowl of udon or soba cost 250 yen according to a blue sticker on the front.

A replica of an Akita City license of operation was pasted on the side along with a handwritten notice.

She noted that for some reason, the “machine’s” starting time of operation had been taped over, leaving just an ending time of 5 p.m.

On the back was a picture of what she assumed was supposed to represent vents being repaired.

A further touch came in the form of another handwritten sign asking for patience as the machine needs to be restocked with supplies periodically.

Upon opening the box, the cake itself looked unassuming despite its unorthodox udon soup-flavor. Its label listed soy sauce and dried bonito flakes among the ingredients, which often form the basis of Japanese dashi (soup stocks).

After trying a bite, it indeed reminded her of the kinds of inexpensive noodle bowls you can buy at various sightseeing places. While sweet, the addition of the soy sauce added a slightly salty kick to the mix. While Saya acknowledges that it must be hard for readers to believe, it didn’t taste nearly as strange as you’re probably imagining right now.

After her tasting session Saya decided to take a closer look at the actual retro machine that the box was based on. The machine apparently used to stand in front of a small local shop, but when that place went out of business in 2016 the machine was relocated to the Michi no Eki Akita-Minato location as a result of its popularity.

▼ This is a photo of the real vending machine–not the pound cake packaging!

She noted the familiar orange buttons for tempura soba (left) and tempura udon (right). Sure enough, they were 250 yen each in real life as well! She decided to buy herself a bowl of soba and inserted some coins into the slot, at which point the screen began displaying a countdown of the number of seconds until her food was piping hot and ready to go.

According to the handwritten notice on the side (in Akita’s local dialect nonetheless), the machine can only hold enough water to heat 12 bowls of noodles at one time so it has to be frequently restocked. Saya was floored by the fact that this actual sign and the license of operation had both been recreated in minute detail on the pound cake box.

Similarly, the other little handwritten sign was also there on the real machine as well.

▼ Real sign (left) and pound cake packaging sign (right)

Even the tape blocking out the starting time of operation as well as stains on the machine were faithfully recreated.

When her noodles were ready Saya drifted over to some nearby tables and chairs to eat. The Port Tower Selion building was opened in 1994 and is itself a fairly retro-looking place to relax.

A round piece of tempura floated on top of her soba. It was very basic but delicious and Saya wished that she could have been given a bit more hot water to go with the noodles. She watched as staff periodically floated back and forth to restock the machine with supplies. It was definitely well-maintained as a labor of love.

Saya concludes by again drawing attention to the fact that the packaging for the udon-soup flavored pound cake is an exact replication of the specific vending machine at Michi no Eki Akita-Minato, not any other vending machine in the world. The fact that it exists is proof of just how beloved the machine is.

While you’re traveling up north in Akita Prefecture, be sure to check out the Namahage Museum (for all of your child-eating ogre needs) or stay at this gorgeous former samurai residence in a famous old castle town.

Source: Michi no Eki Akita-Minato
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