Much more entertaining than buying a coffee at a cafe.

The other day, our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was driving along the Tohoku Expressway when he decided to stop for a break at the outbound Sano Service Area in Tochigi Prefecture. There, while browsing the vending machines for something to perk him up, he came across an unusual vending machine he’d never seen before — a tie-up with Kenji Sakaguchi’s coffee brand, The Rising Sun Coffee.

Kenji Sakaguchi first rose to popularity as a Japanese actor — and son of a professional wrestler who fought Chuck Norris in the 1982 American movie Forced Vengeance — before stepping back from the industry due to health problems in 2018, at the age of 42. That same year, he opened a coffee roastery in Kujukuri, Chiba Prefecture, a top surfing spot, which was a perfect change in focus for the coffee and surf-loving star.

▼ Now, people in landlocked Tochigi Prefecture, roughly 130 kilometres (81 miles) from coastal Kujukuri, can get a taste of the surfer’s coffee, thanks to this vending machine.

The machine is a tie-up between Sakaguchi’s The Rising Sun Coffee and Mirubiki Coffee, the company that operates these special vending machines. There were some surprising options on offer, including Banana Coffee Au Laits and Caramel Au Laits, but it was the “After Surf Blend“, “Wipe Out Blend” and “Rising Sun Blend” varieties that caught Masanuki’s eye.

Taking a quick look at some of the other machines, Masanuki found another coffee machine nearby that was selling another blend from The Rising Sun Coffee, called “Rock Blend“.

All of these blends were priced the same  — 420 yen (US$3.03) for a big cup and 480 yen for a jumbo cup. This was a bit pricier than Masanuki expected, but given that these machines contain special equipment that grinds and drips the coffee fresh with every order, the higher price point is understandable.

Masanuki returned to the first machine and after feeding his coins into it, he pushed the button for the After Surf Blend. This sent the machine whirring into action, but instead of playing the “Coffee Rumba” song usually played by these types of machines while you wait, it played “Surfin’ USAby The Beach Boys.

As the song rang out, the screen began to play a video showing the coffee beans being ground and dripped. Surprisingly, this isn’t a pre-recorded video — it’s a real-life broadcast, which makes the whole thing even more entertaining.

▼ Enjoy the sights and sounds of this unusual vending machine by swiping left below to see the videos.

The video and music make the wait-time fly by effortlessly, so it was bittersweet when the entertainment stopped and Masanuki’s coffee appeared in the window, ready for him to pick up.

The After Surf Blend is said to be the one that best encapsulates the personality of the store, and when Masanuki took a sip, he found it to be strong but tasty and easy to drink.

▼ This was a dark roast, using a blend of beans from Brazil and Kenya.

The coffee gave him just the jolt he needed, while the surfing imagery fed his imagination, re-energising him for the rest of the journey home.

So next time you need a break while driving along the highway, be sure to stop by a service area to check out the vending machines. And don’t forget to check out the restrooms for the high-tech toilets that evaluate your fatigue levels!

Related: Sano service area (outbound)
Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]