An H vending machine, right in the heart of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

In a lot of countries around the world, the letter “H” stands for “H”, the eighth letter of the English alphabet, and if you’re thinking scientifically, hydrogen on the table of elements.

Here in Japan, though, the letter also has some sexual connotations, due to the fact that it’s the first letter of the word “hentai” (the subgenre of anime and manga that uses explicit sexual images and themes), and it also sounds like the slang word “ecchi” (“sex“).

So when our Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato walked by a sign near our office in Shinjuku that had the letter “H” in bold above some strawberries, he immediately though a new sex shop had arrived in town.

Making things even more curious was the fact that beneath the sign was a vending machine. The warm glow of the machine’s lights beckoned to Mr Sato, who has a well-known soft spot for vending machines, and before he knew it he had crossed the road to check it out.

Glancing furtively from left to right to see if any of his colleagues would spot him beneath the giant “H”, Mr Sato stopped to read the sign before stepping inside. That’s when he breathed a sigh of relief, because there was nothing to be ashamed about here — this site was simply dedicated to strawberries!

“In all of Japan, only here! Sweet, Safe, Eco Agricultural Produce Amaou. The vending machine seen on TBS’ Love it!”

Well, if a popular morning TV show like Love It! had been here, it’s safe to say the vending machine wouldn’t be X-rated. Plus, at the very bottom of the sign, he could see the company behind it all was “Hajikemashita@Ichigo Tengoku” (“Bursting@Strawberry Heaven”), revealing that the “H” referred to the company name, and possibly “heaven”, rather than any smut going on in Mr Sato’s mind.

With his mind now at ease, and out of the gutter, Mr Sato stepped inside and took a look at the machine, which, as the sign suggested, was stocked with strawberries.

There were two type of strawberries inside this machine — Amaou from Fukuoka, the famous production area for this particular variety of strawberry, and Awayuki, which means “light snow“, sourced from Kumamoto.

The paler Awayuki strawberries were priced slightly higher than the Amaou, with a single pack costing 900 yen (US$6.50), compared to 700 yen. There was a 100-yen discount for two-pack purchases of the same variety, and there was also the option to buy a pack of each for 1,500 yen.

▼ Mr Sato wanted to try both, so he opted for the two-variety pack, and when it popped out of the machine he found the pack was frozen.

Taking his “H” purchase back to the office, Mr Sato was pleased to discover the pack contained 15 Amaou and 25 Awayuki strawberries.

These particular strawberry varieties are known for being expensive, so this was a good deal, especially as they came straight from the production areas famed for them.

As these strawberries are said to be “eco-agricultural products”, the amount of chemical fertilisers and pesticides used during their production are reduced to less than half the standard set by the prefecture. Mr Sato wasn’t sure if this helped to sway his perception of their flavour, but to him the strawberries tasted cleaner and more flavourful than other Amaou he’s had in the past.

▼ A more subtle tartness and sweetness than usual.

The Awayuki strawberries were slightly smaller in size than the Amaou, but they were absolutely gorgeous with their pale pink hues.

▼ These pale pink strawberries are often referred to as “white strawberries”.

You don’t often get to see strawberries coloured like this, and Mr Sato couldn’t remember if he’d ever tried them before. Taking a bite, he immediately fell in love with their soft tartness and modest sweetness.

▼ Beautiful on the outside and on the inside.

Mr Sato loved eating these strawberries frozen, but you can always let them come to room temperature before eating them. They make a great addition to desserts and milky beverages, especially during the summer months, so be sure to visit the H vending machine in Shinjuku to try them if you’re in the area!

Despite its salacious marketing, this vending machine is totally proper, just like this vending machine selling cans of cream in Harajuku.

Vending Machine Information

Hajikemashita Ichigo Tengoku / はじけました いちご天国
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-35-12
Open 24 hours

Photos © SoraNews24
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