Egg Vending Machines? Yes, really!
By Yuka Arata
Vending machines. They’re ubiquitous in Japan. Vending machines can be found in front of stores, in parking lots, in front of homes and apartments and inside shopping malls and government buildings. In fact, Japan has the highest density of vending machines anywhere in the world and they dispense everything from soft drinks, sake, beer and coffee to fresh fruit, hot soup, ice cream, umbrellas and cosmetics. And in Okinawa you can even buy eggs from a vending machine!
Buying eggs from a vending machine isn’t so much different than purchasing your average, everyday soft drink: drop coins in the slot, make your selection, push the button and have a fresh egg 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Egg vending machines are still relatively rare and as of now only found in the countryside. If you do happen to stumble across one, you’ll likely be asking yourself a bunch of questions. Is it safe? Won’t the egg break inside the machine? Are the eggs fresh? It makes perfect sense to buy drinks from a machine, but eggs?! Is it also ok to serve fresh produce?
But you don’t need to worry! The managing company for the egg vending machine also owns a chicken farm, so the eggs are always fresh and constantly controlled for quality and freshness. The company has invented an ingenious way to ensure the eggs will won’t break, guaranteeing you’ll always be completely satisfied with your purchase.
The eggs come in a variety of sizes and quantities, and the prices are quite reasonable. Most of the time the price is on par, if not cheaper, with those found in supermarkets. If you’re lucky, you may just find much larger eggs than those commonly sold in stores.
Fresh eggs are kept at normal temperature for up to two weeks allowing the eggs to be purchased raw. In Japan, tamago kake gohan–raw egg served on top of hot rice and garnished with soy sauce—is a very popular dish. The popularity of this dish is easily surmised when you learn that there is a special brand of soy sauce made specifically for use with tamago kake gohan. It’s very easy to prepare and can be spiced up with any number of seasonings.
For older men on Okinawa, raw eggs are often used as a quick cure for the common cold. During the old days, when someone felt the onset of a cold, a drink of awamori mixed with raw egg, black sugar or garlic, was believed to provide a quick, effective remedy.
If, after a few weeks, you still have an egg you’ve purchased from a vending machine, it’s safer to cook rather than eat it raw. Japanese rolled omelet is another popular dish that in Okinawa is often made with Spam. Spam and scrambled egg, or pouku to tamogo (pork and egg), can be found on almost every menu in local restaurants. Another quick and easy snack found in convenience stores is the infamous, Spam and egg onigiri (rice ball). These are found everywhere in Okinawa, but are virtually unheard on the mainland.
Foreigners visiting Okinawa for the first time might be surprised at the number of vending machines on island. But it can be fun to explore the variety of products that can be found, especially when you come across an egg vending machine!