All About Japan

Saitama Vending Machine Selling Covid-19 Tests

| Stay Home , Saitama

You can find some pretty amazing stuff in Japanese vending machines. Canned coffee, hot tea, and beer are probably their three most publicized wonders. But if you keep your eyes peeled you can also spot machines selling cutlet sandwiches, hot fish stock, miniature panties, and even PCR test kits!

Japanese-language reporter Shawn stumbled across the machine while out for a walk around his neighborhood in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. It’s located on the grounds of Jomyoin, a Buddhist temple that was founded in 1666. As you might expect, a PCR test is a little pricier than a bottle of Coca-Cola or Pocari Sweat, and Shawn had to feed 3,500 yen (US$34) worth of bills and coins into the machine. Once he did, though, he hit the button and got his kit, which comes in a square box.

He was a little confused by the stamped text that read “Takenoko PCR Test Kit,” since takenoko is usually the Japanese word for a bamboo shoot. In this case, though, Takenoko is also the name of an ear, nose, and throat clinic in Saitama Prefecture, which supplies and processes the test kits sold in the vending machine. And yes, the clinic has a family of cute anthropomorphic bamboo shoot mascot characters.

Back home Shawn opened up the box to find the equipment he’d need to take a saliva sample and written instructions on how to do so. The process only took about five minutes to complete, and once he was done Shawn wrapped his sample in the padded packing material that came with the kit, placed it in the provided envelope, and dropped it in the mail.

Takenoko promises processing within 24 hours of receiving the test. Just two days after he’d dropped it in the mail, Shawn got his result via the email address he’d provided when submitting his sample.

He is happy to report his test came back negative! On the other hand, for those who do test positive, Takenoko contacts both the infected party and their local public health office, so that they can coordinate on treatment and quarantine procedures.

Much like with vending machines selling masks, it’s an unusual sign of the times to be able to buy a PCR test from a machine, but with public health more important than ever, it’s encouraging to see the effort to make getting tested simple and convenient.

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