An assassin has infiltrated the famous otaku neighbourhood in Tokyo.

Ever since the pandemic began, Japan’s vending machine culture has been taken up a notch, with loads of new varieties now appearing on the streets. Some catch the eye by stocking only one product, creating a display that’s visually arresting, and our reporter Egawa Tasuku stumbled across one of these machines on a recent trip to Japan’s otaku mecca of Akihabara in Tokyo.

▼ Akihabara, where you’ll currently be met by idols from The Idolm@ster as soon as you exit the station.

The new vending machine is located around a three-minute walk from the station, just outside the Kotobukiya store.

Kotobukiya specialises in figurines, like this one of a sexy Pennywise the clown, and as one of the most popular stores in the area, it’s a prime sales location for a vending machine. The street itself is particularly popular with local and international tourists, as a number of women in maid cosplay can be found here, advertising nearby maid cafes to passersby.

Egawa was headed to Kotobukiya himself, but just as he got close to the store, his attention was diverted, and not by one of the maids on the street. Instead, it was the vending machine, which called to him with its bright yellow exterior, and a display that, from far away, looked like a set of teeth.

However, when he got closer, he saw that the “teeth” were actually bottles of…

▼ …Max Coffee!

While coffee in a vending machine isn’t usually something that attracts Egawa’s attention, this was no ordinary coffee, and no ordinary vending machine either. For starters, the entire thing was dedicated to the one product, and the name of that product was proudly displayed in the top panel, a spot that’s usually reserved for promotional material.

Rather than use a variety of colours to attract attention, this machine relied on the use of yellow, creating a sleek, simplistic look that Egawa found himself really drawn to.

The side view was also impressive, revealing a design that was noticeably slimmer than regular vending machines.

Another unusual feature was the fact that it was attached to the ground with wires. Egawa wasn’t sure whether this was to prevent the machine from falling or from being stolen, but either way, it was something he hadn’t seen before.

Everything about this machine made it clear that the sole reason for its existence was to sell Max Coffee. Egawa didn’t need much prodding to make a purchase, and he thought this little sticker on the machine was a nice touch.

▼ Compatible with new and old 500 yen coins.

While the machine sells only one thing, when it came to making a purchase, Egawa found that his choices had been narrowed down even further, with the top row of bottles completely sold out.

Having only visited the area a few days ago, Egawa knew this machine was a new addition to the area as he hadn’t seen it during his last visit. While it was possible that the machine hadn’t been stocked with bottles yet, that was an unlikely scenario, given it would be a bad look for the company to advertise bottles without actually selling them, so Egawa got the sense that it had already become a sell-out hit with otaku in the area.

▼ The machine also accepts Coke On Pay payments, making it easy to pay without coins or cash.

Egawa happens to be a Coke On Pay user so he whipped out his phone and brought up the app.

The product list was just as eye-catching as the machine, as this screen is usually filled with various items. He’d never seen so few options while using the app before, and, just as the machine indicated, the bottles were all sold out.

This only made Egawa want the bottle even more, but alas, he chose to make do with the canned version. For those who don’t know Max Coffee, this is a pretty special drink in Japan, as it stands out from other coffee products by using condensed milk instead of regular milk, which gives it a much sweeter flavour.

First introduced to the market in 1975, Max Coffee was previously only sold in Chiba, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures, before being released nationwide from 2009. In the minds of many, this drink still has a regional aura to it, with Akihabara fans dubbing the machine an “assassin” who has come to infiltrate the area from Chiba Prefecture.

▼ It looks like Max Coffee really is making an attack on the area, popping up in other nearby vending machines as well.

Taking a closer look at this particular machine, Egawa was surprised to find that the can he’d paid 140 yen (US$0.94) for was being sold here for…110 yen!

This really was an assassin, sneaking up on customers at various price points depending on which machine you come across. Though Egawa felt a little cheated at first, in the end he didn’t mind as the experience of using the all-yellow machine felt more high-class than feeding coins into an ordinary vending machine.

So if you’re looking to find an unusual vending machine in Tokyo, Akihabara remains one of the best places you can go to — you can even find ones that vend creepy tales with a side of candy in the area!

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]