No ramen noodles come out… Too bad a popular vending machine in the Tokyo metropolitan area has been having trouble after trouble | FRIDAY DIGITAL

No ramen noodles come out… Too bad a popular vending machine in the Tokyo metropolitan area has been having trouble after trouble

Frozen noodles came straight out of the machine at Haneda Airport...

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Ramen vending machine “YO-KAI EXpress” installed at Shibaura PA. The garbage disposer on the right uses a machine to store leftover noodles and soup at temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius, thereby reducing foul odors and insect infestations.

What is the ramen vending machine from Silicon Valley?

On March 23, the latest ramen vending machine from Silicon Valley, “YO-KAI EXpress,” began operating at Haneda Airport. Immediately after the machine was installed, people were impressed by its “delicious, interesting, and amazing! However, unfortunately, it turned out that there were a number of malfunctions.

It was around 8:00 p.m. on April 12 that I saw an unexpected scene at the Shibaura PA. A young man was standing in front of the “Shibaura Unmanned Shokudo” at the far end of the row of vending machines, looking troubled. He was making a phone call somewhere.

He said, “My payment has been made, but my ramen isn’t coming out. So I just called support. Then today, they told me that they can no longer serve the ramen and that I would be refunded at a later date. I knew it was popular and wondered if they were sold out today. I came to the restaurant thinking that it might be sold out today, but only the miso ramen was left, so I thought, “Lucky me! I thought and paid for it. ……”

In response to other intermittent problems, the Shibaura PA was temporarily removed three days later on April 15 to allow for reliable inspections and repairs.

At Haneda Airport, problems began to occur from the day of installation, and two days after installation, a customer commented, “It takes from a minimum of two minutes to a maximum of 15 minutes until the next product is served. The delivery time is not stable. A note was posted on the vending machine stating, “The system is currently being improved. There were also several ramen noodles that came out “frozen,” so the entire machine was replaced on April 12.

Unfortunately, the trouble report came first, but what kind of ramen vending machine is YO-KAI EXpress?

The YO-KAI EXpress ramen vending machine developed by the American food tech startup YO-KAI offers four types of ramen: salt, soy sauce, miso, and tonkotsu. Payment methods are limited to credit cards, e-money, and QR code payments, and cash purchases are not allowed.

CEO Andy Lin, who founded the company in 2016, is a Taiwanese-American ramen lover. Under the motto of “Easy, convenient, and delicious food anytime,” b8ta’s 24-hour, contact-free hot meal service has become popular in the United States, where it is now installed in 50 locations. The four types of ramen are also made at a factory in Japan according to the president’s secret recipe. YO-KAI” stands for “Yokai,” a Japanese word meaning “monsters.

Part of a Twitter post lamenting the appearance of frozen noodles from the “YO-KAI EXpress
Twitter users lamenting that an error message appeared.

Is the cause of the trouble ‘unexpected load’?

In Japan, the machines were installed at Haneda Airport, Shibaura PA, and for a limited time at Tokyo Station, and among these, the popularity at Shibaura PA was the most popular. 50 servings are set in one machine, but 47 were sold in the first 12 hours of sales on March 30, and the machines were almost sold out. Each serving of ramen from the vending machine at Shibaura PA weighs 220 grams, comes out in about 90 seconds, and costs a flat rate of 790 yen per serving. Incidentally, the miso ramen that the author received had medium-thick noodles with a chewy texture. The soup has an authentic miso ramen flavor. The corn was also crispy and delicious.

There are PAs where ramen can be eaten on the Metropolitan Expressway, but most of them close around 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Many people use PAs at night or early in the morning for travel breaks, but getting a hot meal during those hours is difficult in itself. The popularity of the vending machine at the Shibaura PA, which sold out in the first 12 hours of sales, shows how much PA users have been waiting for a vending machine that serves hot ramen. An engineer involved in the production of the vending machine revealed the cause of the trouble: “My guess is that Shibaura is also the same as Tokyo.

As an engineer involved in the production of the vending machines, he explains, “My guess is that the flood of customers that came to both Shibaura and Tokyo Station, partly due to the many media articles on the machines, and the continuous operation of the machines, which was something that had never happened in the United States, may have placed an unexpected load on the machines in unexpected places.

YO-KAI is currently developing an application that will allow users to check the operation and inventory status of ramen vending machines. The app will be released later this summer when mass-produced vending machines developed specifically for the Japanese market are installed.

How is YO-KAI EXpress responding to these problems? The following is a summary of what we have heard from several people involved.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers by several unforeseen errors that occurred as a result.

The “uncooked frozen food” occurred on the night of April 8, and has not occurred since repairs were completed around noon on April 9. The “ramen noodles not appearing after payment” was caused by a software update bug, and we have already identified the cause of this issue and are taking countermeasures.

We have already identified the causes of these problems and are taking steps to remedy them. We will contact our 24-hour call center to inquire about the situation and issue a refund or a coupon for a free meal the next time the customer dines at the restaurant.

The fact that one can enjoy authentic and delicious ramen even late at night is in itself quite a pleasant surprise at an expressway rest facility. Although we have sailed away from the trouble, we can only hope that both Haneda Airport and Shibaura PA will thoroughly investigate the cause of the problem and correct it, and that the day will come when they will be able to serve delicious ramen in a stable manner. If this malfunction is a “prank by monsters,” it is time for the pranks to end.

On April 15, the vending machine was temporarily removed and a sign was posted in its place.
A sign announcing the temporary removal of the ramen vending machine
This is the miso ramen I had when the vending machine was working properly. The medium-thick noodles have a chewy texture and the soup is authentic. The corn is also crunchy and delicious.
On April 12, the entire machine was replaced at Haneda Airport and is now working properly. The tonkotsu ramen in the photo is very popular and sometimes sold out.
Shio Ramen at Haneda Airport. The noodles themselves are also delicious and a favorite of the author!
One can only hope that the day will come soon when there will be no more trouble with ramen vending machines!
  • Interview and text by Kumiko Kato Photographed by Hiroto Kato

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