Three of the most prized wagyu varieties are waiting inside this crane game.

A lot of the floor space at arcades in Japan these days is dedicated to UFO catcher/crane game machines. It makes sense. Home consoles and PCs long ago caught up to the performance levels of arcade video game hardware, and online play means there’s no need to go to the arcade to find human opponents to face off against in versus play.

But crane games represent a kind of fun and excitement you can’t have at home, You can’t download prizes like a Sanrio plushie or One Piece figure…or Kobe beef.

Our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa came across this meaty prize while she was back home visiting family in Tottori Prefecture. During a shopping trip to the local Aeon shopping center, Aeon Tottori Kita, Ikuna decided to stroll through the arcade and check out the crane game prizes, which is when she spotted this machine.

Inside the display case were a bunch of golden oblong, egg-shaped containers, and on the back wall was a banner proclaiming them “Japan’s number-one beef stew!”

▼ 日本一のビーフシチュー = Japan’s number-one beef stew

It’s a bold claim, but taking a closer look at the eggs, Ikuna saw that each was emblazoned with the kanji for “Kobe beef,” “Matsuzaka beef,” or “Miyazaki beef,” three of the most prized varieties of wagyu. Even better, the prizes looked pretty easy to win. The machine’s layout consisted of a high platform in the back, a lower platform in the front, and a targe hole in the center. Several capsules had already fallen to the lower platform, where they lay in a bunch, and Ikuna figured it wouldn’t be very hard to slide or knock one into the hole.

Excitedly, she scampered over to the change machine to get some coins, but when she got back, a shocking site was waiting for her.

The capsules had been reset! Apparently the lower-deck pile she’d seen was the leftover effect of the previous player’s attempts, and after the machine had been left unplayed for a while, an arcade employee had reset their positions.

But with Ikuna’s competitive spirit burning and her stomach growling, she resolved to overcome this unexpected additional challenge.

It wasn’t easy, as the case slipped out of the claw multiple times.

But she persevered, and on her ninth attempt…

the prize was hers! Even better, the capsule she’d won was a Kobe beef one, which didn’t seem like a bad deal for a 900-yen (US$7) outlay.

Kind-hearted coworker that she is, Ikuna waited until her visit to Tottori was over and she was back at SoraNews24 headquarters in Tokyo to open the capsule, so that she could share it with whoever else was in the office that day.

Opening up the egg, inside was a sealed pouch of the kind commonly used in Japan for instant curries, stews, and sauces.

After heating it up in the microwave, Ikuna poured the Kobe beef stew into a bowl…

and called over fellow reporters Seiji Nakazawa, P.K. Sanjun, and Ahiruneko to have a taste.

And how was it? “It’s not bad,” P.K. said, “but really good stew has a richer flavor.” “It’s really tart, like a tart ketchup” Seiji added, followed by Ahiruneko with “It tastes more like Hayashi rice than beef stew, and like an inexpensive instant brand.”

So the consensus was that while it’s not bad, our panel of taste testers wouldn’t call the crane game Kobe beef stew “the best-tasting beef stew in Japan.” But come to think of it, Ikuna remembered, the crane game itself didn’t call it that either, as the poster has said “Japan’s number-one beef stew.” So maybe it was simply saying that it’s a beef stew, of passable flavor, made with Japan’s number-one beef, i.e. Kobe beef?

It was then that Ikuna also remembered that the arcade had another crane game with the more specific promise that the prize is “the most delicious cola in the world.”

Unfortunately, it’s a long way back to Tottori Prefecture, so that taste test might have to wait for her next trip home.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]