A robot that cooks soba noodles is serving hungry commuters at a train station in western Tokyo in yet another example of Japan's shift to automation as labor remains in short supply.

The robot was introduced Monday on a trial basis at Higashikoganei Station on East Japan Railway Co.'s Chuo Line. It is capable of making 40 soba dishes an hour, about the same as the average human cook.

JR East said it will let the robot cook in the Sobaichi eatery during a trial period through April 15 to determine whether it can function well and meet the expectations of noodle-loving customers.

Developed by Connected Robotics Inc. based in the city of Koganei, the robot can boil up to three servings of soba at the same time before rinsing them in cold water. Once cooked, a human has to put them on a plate on the robot's behalf.

"We can avoid summer heat and the risk of burns from scalding hot water," eatery employee Akimasa Yasue said of the robot. "We can also do other things, such as dealing with customers, cooking fried food and clearing away dishes."

The experiment was driven by JR East Start Up Co., a company tasked with developing new businesses for the train operator.