A very sweet way to earn a living in Japan. 

One big change we’ve noticed in Japan since the pandemic is the rise of a new era of vending machines, where people can buy everything from eel to ponzu sauce and even wagyu beef, without having to make contact with staff or step into a store.

While most of the products we’ve seen so far are dedicated to the flavours of Japan, on a recent trip to the port city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture, we came across a very different type of vending machine, dedicated to the flavours of Britain.

▼ The machine is located on a back street in a quiet residential area.

There’s not a lot of fanfare around this machine, so there’s a chance you might miss it if you don’t have your eyes peeled as you walk by. Those with a keen eye, though, will spot the British flag on the machine, which sits in the shadow of a nondescript building.

Stepping closer, you’ll find an exciting selection of British sweets, including salty coffee biscuits, shortbread

▼ …earl grey shortbread, cheese shortbread, and choco-chip cookies.

▼There’s also a selection of soft drinks from Fentimans and Folkington’s.

▼ If you purchase drinks and sweets here, you can essentially enjoy afternoon tea from a vending machine.

Our roving reporter MG Ogawa was the one who discovered the machine, and as he’s a sucker for baked goods, he was tempted to buy all the different biscuits. However, at 1:00 p.m. when he visited, all the biscuits, except the salty coffee and shortbread, had already sold out, so the decision was made for him.

▼ MG returned home with a pack of salty coffee biscuits (800 yen for a pack of seven), and shortbread (800 yen for six).

Both of these have a shelf life of about a month, but there was no way they were going to last that long in MG’s kitchen. Tearing into the bag of salty coffee biscuits, he was greeted by the rich aroma of coffee, immediately making his place seem more like a posh cafe.

Biting into the biscuit unleashed its strong coffee flavour onto the taste buds, before a tantalising hint of salt that appeared as the biscuit crumbled in the mouth. The wonderful combination of bitter and salty coffee notes lingered in the aftertaste, making MG hungry for another bite, but he restrained himself and reached for the shortbread.

Opening this bag released the delicious scent of butter into the air, and though MG was worried that the biscuit might crumble in between his fingers, he was pleased to find that it was solid enough to handle comfortably.

The taste was deliciously simple, imparting a gradual sense of buttery sweetness on the palate. Despite being dusted with sugar, the biscuit wasn’t as sweet as MG though it would be, and the only thing missing from his life now was a good cup of milky black tea.

The biscuits tasted delicious, and though the price was a little steep compared to local big-brand varieties, it’s to be expected for these kinds of rare treats, which are considered to be exotic luxuries in Japan.

If you’re not close by to try the vending machine, the Biscuit Barrel sells its wares on its official website, where they also sell a selection of cakes like Apple Crumble. It’s a great way to get a taste of Britain, especially for those who live in the neighbourhood, and it’s a darn sight tastier than this vending machine that sells dish sponges.

Related: The Biscuit Barrel
Photos © SoraNews24
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