The beloved electric Pocket Monster powers up some special goods at this highway stop in Japan. 

Vending machines have come a long way over the last few years, expanding the range of goods they can provide to include products as varied as oysters, sponges, and even wagyu beef.

Still, there are vending machines that manage to surprise us and stop us in our tracks, and that’s what happened to our reporter Haruka Takagi the other day, when she saw this at the outbound Tomei Expressway Ashigara Service Area in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The bright yellow Pokémon sign, with star of the series Pikachu beside it, immediately caught Haruka’s eye, and when she looked below it, she found it belonged to a vending machine.

▼ The machine was perfectly placed, next to a Pokémon-adorned drinks machine.

This unusual-looking machine, or “Pokémon Stand” as it’s known, sells original goods usually only available for purchase at a Pokémon Centre. The nearest Pokémon Centre is located at Gotemba, not too far away from this highway stop, which is likely why they set one up here, so that people passing through could purchase goods without having to make a detour off the highway.

▼ Once you get close to the machine, Pikachu pops up to greet you.

Haruka was mesmerised by the screen, where Pikachu put on a performance of sorts, snoozing peacefully before leaping up and running away.

The movements were so lifelike that Haruka wanted to run after Pikachu and catch him, so she did the next best thing by reaching into her wallet for some coins to make a purchase.

▼ The illustrated four-step instruction process makes the machine easy to use.

The first step is perhaps the hardest, as you’ll have to make a selection from a range of cute items that include pass cases, key holders, and smartphone rings.

Haruka opted for the “O’Band” brand rubber bands, which came in an exclusive tin for 1,210 yen (US$8.35). Then she moved on to the next step, choosing cash as her payment method.

Once she’d fed her money into the machine, out popped her tin, along with a Pikachu-branded paper bag, which was the perfect fit for her purchase. She also received an adorable bow of thanks from Pikachu on the screen after she completed her payment, but she was so captivated by the cuteness of it all she forgot to photograph it.

O’Band rubber bands became synonymous with rubber bands when they were first introduced to the market back in 1917, and they’ve become a household name ever since. Sold in tins and boxes, the product still features the old-style logo, but to see it with Pikachu, a Poké Ball, and even a Pikachu butt on the packaging made for a new and novel experience.

It wasn’t just the packaging that had received a Poké-overhaul — the rubber bands themselves had changed to include the tie-up colours for the collaboration, and there were six special ones in the tin of 36.

▼ Three were shaped like Pikachu’s face, and three like a Pikachu tail!

Haruka was over the moon with her purchase, and in case you were wondering — yes, the vending machine is also a Pokémon Go gym.

According to the official website, there are currently 10 of these vending machines set up on a permanent basis nationwide, with others popping up for a limited time during special events. The machine at Haneda Airport reportedly sells limited-edition Pikachu plushies in pilot/cabin crew outfits so be sure to keep an eye out for that one next time you’re there!

And if you’re a Pokémon fan looking for a place to stay, these Pokémon hotel rooms, complete with giant Snorlax, will definitely make for a trip to remember.

Reference: Pokémon Stand Location List (Locations may change without notice so checking the latest information before visiting is recommended)
Photos © SoraNews24 ©2022 Pokémon ©1995-2022 Nintendo/Creatures Inc. / GAME FREAK inc.

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[ Read in Japanese ]