Insert two 100 yen coins into the machine and turn the handle to get the product. But please note it’s not a toy but a real umeboshi, a Japanese pickled plum, in a capsule. This amazing experience is brought by Gachapon coin-operated capsule umeboshi (not toy) vending machines, which are introduced by Kishu Minabe Umeboshi (Pickled Plum) Producers Association based in Minabe-cho, Wakayama Prefecture. The association introduced them in order to encourage children to eat more umeboshi, and accordingly to recover its consumption. It seems that they are doing a good job.
The first capsule umeboshi vending machine was introduced in late January quite successfully. So now, you can find umeboshi Gachapon in seven locations both in the town and Wakayama-shi and also at Wakayama Kishukan, an “antenna shop” that sells local specialties of Wakayama in one of the busiest shopping districts in Tokyo, Yurakucho. Altogether, they sold 1,300 capsules in the past three months.
Inside the plastic balls are umeboshi produced by JA Kishu, an agricultural co-operative in Wakayama Prefecture. There are four different types: “Shiroboshi-ume (plain)”, “Honey-umeboshi (honey-flavored)”, “Shiso-umeboshi (red-perilla-flavored)” and “Kombu-umeboshi (kelp-flavored)”. Most of them are made out of regular size plums (about 37 mm in diameter) but one out of 10 capsules contains umeboshi made out of a bigger one (about 45 mm in diameter). Each capsule will also contain a magnet of a matching character and a small note to explain history of the plum production in Minabe-cho.
Selling umeboshi Gachapon was the idea of a dietary education group that focuses on Japanese plum recipes, Collabo Kitchen. President of the group, Kuniyuki Sakamoto, 41, said, “Kids loves Gachapon. We hope it will attract their attention and contribute to the increase of demand.”
(May 9, 2015)