Ninja promote 'cool' vending machines

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

To lure foreign tourists, especially Chinese arriving in large numbers for the Lunar New Year holiday, JR East is promoting Japan’s cutting-edge vending machine technology at JR Akihabara Station in Tokyo, with staff dressed in ninja and kimono outfits.

JR East Water Business Co. has turned to its “next generation” Acure vending machines as a promotional tool, with staff ready to explain how to use the machines in Chinese and English.

“With our vending machine, I hope overseas tourists will find Japanese station facilities entertaining and convenient,” Takatoki Izumi, head of JR Water Business’s vending machine promotion, said Thursday.

Unlike traditional vending machines, the smart vending machine is equipped with a touch panel that provides details about the beverages. A face-recognition camera automatically identifies the sex and approximate age of the user and, taking into account the time of day and temperature, suggests a suitable beverage.

Some tourists took pictures with the ninjas while others received free Japanese folding fans with instructions on how to use the vending machines.

Asked about the ninja costumes, Izumi said he got a number of inquiries from foreign media about Japanese vending machines, and thought that the machines had the potential to become a sightseeing attraction for overseas tourists.

“When thinking about what characterizes our vending machine, I thought ninja would be the perfect match with its fast, cool image,” Izumi said.

Sophia So and Raul Han, Chinese tourists who were at Akihabara Station on Thursday, said the encounter with ninjas was a “very unique and interesting experience” that they have never had outside Japan.

Ninjas and women in kimono will be at the station until Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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