Japanese firm starts selling BEAR meat from vending machines

Japanese firm starts selling BEAR meat from vending machines with £13 packs of wild caught produce already proving popular

  • A vending machine in the Japanese city of Semboku is selling fresh bear meat
  • It has proved popular with locals and tourists who are passing through city 

Of all the things you might expect to find in a vending machine, fresh bear meat doesn’t spring to mind.

But for residents living in the northern Japanese city of Semboku, they can get their hands on the delicacy for 2,200 yen (£13).

The vending machine, placed outside the Soba Goro restaurant near the Tazawako train station, has proved to be popular with locals and tourists who are passing through the city on the train.

Featuring meat from locally hunted wild bears, the 24-hour vending machine has attracted a steady stream of customers since it opened in November last year, reports the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

It is so popular that residents from as far away as Tokyo, located 350 miles from Semboka, have enquired about getting the bear meat delivered to them.

A vending machine in the Japanese city of Semboku is selling fresh bear meat. Pictured: A file image of a black bear cub in Japan

While most vending machines feature images of sweets and drinks, this one has various pictures of lean and fatty bear meat. 

The wild bears – including black bears – are captured in the mountains near Semboku and killed by members of a local hunting club before being processed at a slaughterhouse.

The Soba Goro restaurant installed the vending machine in a bid to make the bear meat a staple of the region – and put their eatery on the map for tourists visiting the area.

Between 10 to 15 packages of bear meat – each weighing 250g – are sold each week, but supplies can run low as the bear hunting season is limited. 

A Soba Goro spokesperson told the newspaper: ‘Bear meat tastes clean, and it doesn’t get tough, even when cold. 

‘It can be enjoyed in a wide range of dishes, from stew to steaks.’

Japan has about 4.1 million vending machines in operation, the most in the world per capita, according to a trade group.

And bear meat is not the only unusual food item to feature in the country’s vending machines – some feature insects including beetles as well as hamburgers. 

And in January this year, a Japanese whaling firm unveiled vending machines offering whale sashimi, whale steak and whale bacon in Yokohama in hopes of reviving sales of a food long in decline and shunned by many supermarkets.

A Japanese whaling company provoked a wave of criticism from animal rights activists over the installation of vending machines selling whale meat in January this year

Wearing a whale-shaped hat, Kyodo Senpaku President Hideki Tokoro greeted prospective customers at the firm’s latest ‘unmanned store’ – a trio of vending machines in Motomachi, an upmarket shopping district home to fashion boutiques and artisan bakeries.

The firm has recently set up two similar outlets in Tokyo, plans to open a fourth in the western city of Osaka next month, and hopes to grow to 100 locations over the next five years.

The products on sale mainly contain whale caught in Japan, a company spokesperson said, with prices ranging from 1,000 yen (£6) to 3,000 yen (£18).

The move has been slated by animal rights campaigners, who labelled it a ‘cynical sales ploy’.

Astrid Fuchs, of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said in a statement: ‘This latest cynical sales ploy comes at a time when the fisheries agency in Japan is aiming to expand the nation’s whale-catch quotas – and possibly increase the list of species that can be killed.’

Consumption of whale meat has declined since the 1960s as more traditional livestock – including pork, chicken and beef – has become more affordable.

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