The jury will always be out the question of which came first the chicken or the egg but I do have the answer to a similar question: Which came first the egg or the egg vending machine??? Yes you read that right – Egg Vending Machine!
I moved to Okinawa two years ago, with my USMC/Marine husband, determined to embrace the adventure this tiny tropical island has to offer. We try to get out and explore whenever possible because not only is it beautiful here but Okinawa is also full of quirky little cultural gems that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s my little island of first times and new experiences. So naturally, when I read about egg vending machines in a local, military spouse published magazine (StarSand) it was a no brainer – we were going and we were going to tell everyone about the experience.
Before I hopped in the car and charged ahead though I wanted to figure out how egg vending machines had even become a thing here. I did some research and found out:
- The first vending machine to appear in Japan was for tobacco in 1888. They didn’t become really popular until the 1950’s when juice machines were introduced.
- There are over 5 MILLION!!! vending machines in all of Japan. They are so loved because of their convenience. They are available 24 hrs a day and often the beverage machines serve up both hot and cold options so great for commuters.
- Other unique varieties include machines that will play a short comedy skit while you stand by and drink your beverage; a machine that’s kind of like a slot machine where you could win a second drink; umbrella machines; instant print business card machines; and now thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic facemask machines.
- Some vending machines have a function called “Free Vend” so in the event of a natural disaster they will vend their food, water, and other products for free while the community supply chain is getting back together.
Off I went feeling much more informed. The machine is only two miles from my house down a classically narrow Okinawa street. I parked right in front of the bright yellow machine with my bag of Yen in one hand and my phone with Google translate opened in the other. The eggs came in boxes of 11, 12, 13 or 23 which I couldn’t help but laugh at because typical egg cartons in the local stores come in 10 only. I had just enough Yen to get a box of 13 so I carefully inserted my coins and waited for the little flap to open…it didn’t!
Thankfully, this machine is attached to a bakery and the woman working there saw my issue. She came out to help and had a small laugh at my expense because the flap wasn’t automated. All I needed to do was lift it open when the light came on. I thanked her and was relieved when she told me that it happens all the time (and hopefully not only to Americans.)
Success! I couldn’t keep the grin off my face the entire way home at the novelty of getting eggs from a machine. I noticed that they were warm, once I got home, which seemed strange to me. A quick trip to Google set my mind at ease.
Turns out, the US is one of the few countries to require commercially sold eggs to be refrigerated due to the pre-packaging cleaning process they undergo. Non-commercially sold eggs, like my vending machine eggs, are not treated with the same process and are not required to be refrigerated.
People in other countries all around the world keep their eggs out at room temperature. Ultimately, it comes down to how long you’d like them to keep and how they were cleaned. If you want them to last for a while, the fridge is your best bet, and once they’ve been in the fridge, they have to stay there until you use them (no takes-backsies).
Visiting the egg vending machine wasn’t about getting eggs. Truth be told, I had a full carton in the refrigerator already. It was about taking the opportunity to experience a quirk of a different culture and being open-minded to look at something so ordinary from a totally different angle. Even that was just the tip of the iceberg! Doing the five minutes of research and reading on the history of vending machines in Japan and whether or not eggs should be refrigerated taught me information I otherwise wouldn’t have sought out.
I am already planning to revisit the egg vending machine because I missed out on the cake! I didn’t have enough Yen with me that day…so back I’ll go. I’m also looking forward to exploring the streets of Naha, Okinawa’s largest city, for other quirky vending machines once the COVID-19 restrictions are loosened. I hear tall tale of a noodle vending machine that could be a fun, and convenient, lunch stop.
Do you have a fun vending machine story? Do you remember the first time you got out of a vending machine? What quirky culturally different thing have you tried in your travels? Would you eat the eggs from this awesome machine? Leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook Group to let us know. Happy egg-periencing!