Even if you’ve never been to Japan, chances are you’ve heard of their w-w-wacky vending machines. You know, the ones on every corner selling pre-owned underwear? Honestly, it’s been a few years and I’m still yet to see one of those kind—guess I’m not hanging out in the right places? I can confirm, however, that vending machines, in general, are abundant. The ones gracing street corners, train station platforms and even hiking trails are your basic drink vending machines and contain everything from water to coffee, juice, soft drinks and even hot soup. Every now and again you might come across ice cream and snack machines. But, it’s the even rarer ones I’m keen on. Ones that stop you in your tracks and make you say “heeh~…?” That’s why, when I came across one of Japan’s dashi vending machines in my travels, I was pretty chuffed.
Word of the day: Jidohanbaiki (Jihan for short) — vending machine.
Dashi is that underlying oceanic flavour in many Japanese dishes; an umami-rich broth made from kombu (kelp) and often fish. If you’ve had miso soup, you’ve had dashi.
Japan’s dashi vending machines
The vending machines are the brainchild of Nitanda Shoyu Company, owners of the Dashi Douraku restaurant in Hiroshima. You’ll occasionally see restaurants selling their famous sauces and broths in-store, but putting them into a vending machine takes the shopping experience to a whole new level.
There are two kinds of dashi to choose from in the vending machines. The gold labelled bottle is Agodashi, a style popular in Kyushu, and features a whole yakiago (grilled flying fish) and a sheet of konbu. The red labelled Sodabushi is a style from Kochi prefecture which is made from dried bullet mackerel. Each has a unique flavour that lends itself to different recipes.
Where are the dashi vending machines?
These vending machines are located all over Japan, with 27 in Tokyo alone. For a current list of all the dashi vending machines, check the Dashi Douraku website.
Head home to read more of our adventures.