In Japan, you can buy almost anything from a vending machine. Bottled fish soup, wigs, warm hot dogs, and even live beetles can all be purchased from conveniently located machines in and around Tokyo. But lately, a new snack has arrived on the scene. And we’ve got mixed feelings about it.
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In Semboku City, located in Akita Prefecture in the mountains north of Tokyo, you can now walk up to a machine, slot in your payment, and walk away with a handful of Asiatic bear meat. That’s right: bear meat.
The meat is available in two different cuts and costs around $17 per portion, report local news sources. The machine is open 24 hours a day.
Bear meat vending machine proves popular in north Japan city https://t.co/VqhYuMIX9P— The Mainichi (Japan Daily News) (@themainichi) April 2, 2023
According to reporting from the BBC, the bear meat is harvested by local hunters who obey posted limits. The novel vending strategy could be a way to both support sustainable hunting practices and provide visitors with locally sourced meat. However, some people feel that the utter convenience sends the wrong message. Sure, Asiatic black bears can be nuisances in urban environments, but they’re still considered vulnerable. In the past, they’ve suffered from overhunting, habitat loss, and even the illegal pet trade.
This isn’t the first time Japanese vending machines have generated controversy. Earlier this year, NBC reported on a whaling operator that opened a whale meat vending machine near Tokyo. The company was unable to sell its meat in grocery stores due to fear of protests from animal rights activists. So, it started selling cubes of the chilled whale in vending machines instead.
With whales dying in unprecedented numbers in many regions of the world, many feel that this venture — like the bear meat machine — is a suspect move. But with Japan’s vending machine culture unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon, we can probably expect weird game-meat machines to stick around, at least for now.