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Tokyo vending machine tempts runners with tomatoes

By Euan McKirdy, for CNN
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 0831 GMT (1631 HKT)
The vending machine dispenses two types of tomatoes
The vending machine dispenses two types of tomatoes
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A vending machine near Tokyo's Imperial Palace dispenses tomatoes
  • Kagome is promoting the fruit as a healthy alternative to energy drinks and bars
  • Tomatoes are among a long list of weird things that Japanese can buy from vending machines
  • The country has 5.5 million vending machines, or one for every 23 people in the country

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The round, red objects that Tokyo's runners have been encountering lately are not the exhausted faces of fellow joggers, but rather a healthy snack at the end of their run.

The agricultural giant Kagome told CNN it has placed a tomato vending machine in a station providing lockers and shower facilities for joggers near a popular running route close to the city's Imperial Palace.

The bright red vending machine, which has the slogan "tomato loading" in Japanese emblazoned on it, serves two sizes of the fruit, costing either 300 yen ($3) or 400 yen ($4) per piece.

Kagome is pushing tomatoes as a healthy, rehydrating and nutrient-replenishing option for runners and will keep the vending machine in place until after the Tokyo Marathon on February 23.

Japan is the spiritual home of vending machines, with jido-hanbaiki, as they are known in Japanese, dispensing everything from soft drinks to toothbrushes, and even emergency underwear.

Kagome\'s tomato vending machine will serve runners
Kagome's tomato vending machine will serve runners

There are currently around 5.5 million vending machines in Japan, or one for every 23 people in the country, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

While vending machines dispensing apples and bananas are not unheard of, tomatoes are a new concept. They are replaced every other day, according to reports, to ensure freshness and the Nagoya-based company, which has a large share of Japan's tomato market, says that they can help combat fatigue.

"I recommend runners have one after jogging to supply nutrition," a Kagome executive was quoted as saying in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Kagome has previously distributed tomatoes to marathon participants, handing out thousands of them at last year's Tokyo event.

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