Everyone knows that Japan is the land of convenience. From an easy access metro system, convenience stores that allow you to do everything from paying bills to buying theater tickets and, of course, the fan favorite – vending machines! There seems to be one on every block and corner selling everything from drinks, bananas, and even underwear! Now imagine a restaurant where all the meals are sold by vending machines only. That’s right! There’s no staff, no waiters, and not even any cleaning staff. It’s just you and the machines!
Welcome to Jihanki Shokudo (自販機食堂) (or otherwise fondly known by locals as the vending machine restaurant) in Isesaki City, Gumma prefecture! About an hour and a half drive from Tokyo, this restaurant is a throwback to all that is good, warm and lovely. It will awaken your childhood memories. The vending machines have a retro feel to them. Not only does each machine sell a wide variety of food but there are even some throwback gacha (or capsule) machines selling souvenirs and soba machines ready to quench your hunger!
One of the more popular dishes, a Tar Tar meat sauce burger, is a crowd pleaser and a steal at only 250 yen. There is also a curry burger for those who are not averse to new burgers. Despite coming from a vending machine, the flavors do come through! There is even a noodle vending machine and a sandwich machine selling another best seller – Italian toast. However, users beware. The items are quite hot, so be careful taking items out of the machine itself. Thankfully they do provide tongs and pot holders to prevent burns.
And yes, there really is NO staff! Surprisingly the “restaurant” is quite clean! This is due to the customers cleaning up after themselves. Seems like the perfect business! So if you are ever in Isesaki City, make sure to check this one of a kind restaurant experience!
Access: JR Station: HONJO 本庄駅 + 10-min taxi ride (1,800 yen) or 40-min walk | Joetsu Shinkansen Stop: WASEDA-HONJO 早稲田本庄 + 15-minute taxi ride (2,500 yen)