Symbol of Hiroshima is also a delicious sweet that travelers have loved for over a century.

Japanese vending machines have always been awesome when it comes to drinks, and over the last year or so we’ve seen some awesome food machine innovations too, like the ramen vending machine that just went into service in the Tokyo subway system.

But if, like us, you don’t just have a sweet tooth, but a whole mouth full of them, you’ll want to check out this dessert vending machine in Hiroshima Prefecture.

▼ This one

Located inside the first-floor arrival lobby of Hiroshima Airport, this vending machine sells Hiroshima’s favorite sweet snack, the momiji manju, or “maple cake.”

Hiroshima has some of the most beautiful maple forests and groves in all of Japan, and the trees’ leaves have become a symbol of the prefecture themselves. The leaf-shaped cakes, with anko (sweet red bean paste) or other sweet fillings, first became popular on Hiroshima’s Miyajima island over a century ago, and they’ve since become a popular, and much-appreciated, souvenir for travelers to take home to share with family, friends, and coworkers.

▼ Visitors to Miyajima fondly remember both the site of its world-famous torii gate and the flavor of its delicious momiji manju.

This vending machine is supplied by Miyajima confectioner Momijido, and offers not only red bean, but also matcha, lemon, custard cream, chocolate, and cheese flavors, ranging in price from 220 to 370 yen (US$1.91 to US$3.22).

On our visit, we picked up a two-cake pack of matcha momiji manju.

▼ Our reporter Haruka Takagi posing with the machine-vended sweets

Along with its shrines and sweets, Miyajima is famous for the herds of tame deer that roam the island’s streets, mingling freely and friendlily with travelers. Naturally, there’s a cute drawing of one on the box.

Momiji manju aren’t quite bite-sized (unless you take extra-big bites), but they’re compact enough to eat with your fingers. Despite their appearance they’re not made with maple syrup or extract, but they have a mild sweetness not unlike the pancake-like section of dorayaki.

The matcha anko inside Momijido’s Momiji manju is especially delicious. It’s flavored with Hoshizora (“Starry Sky”) green tea, prepared for Hiroshima tea merchant Senchaso by growers in the town of Hoshinoura, Fukuoka Prefecture. The matcha filling’s mild bitterness makes for an enticing contrast with the sweetness of the cake’s outer section, and it even has an elegant green tea aroma. In short, the matcha momiji manju are alliteratively delicious.

While you can buy momiji manju inside souvenir shops too, there’s no denying the appeal of the instant gratification this vending machine provides. There are a handful of other momiji manju vending machines to be found in Hiroshima, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that one day we get one near SoraNews24 headquarters in Tokyo.

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Insert images: SoraNews24, Wikipedia/Gustavocarra
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Follow Casey on Twitter as he continues his quest to eat as much anko as he can.

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