KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - Cricket protein bars, crunchy unicorn beetles, and canned tarantulas.
A vending machine in Japan selling insect snacks is not just changing perceptions of food, but also raising awareness about environmental issues, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
Set up in Chuo ward in the southern Japanese prefecture Kumamoto last November, the unusual vending machine is the brainchild of 34-year-old Toshiyuki Tomoda, who runs a balloon shop in the city.
Mr Tomoda had become interested in eating insects through discussions about food shortages and environmental issues with friends, the Yomiuri said on Tuesday.
He launched the vending machine last November to sell insect snacks.
About 10 insect snacks are available. The cheapest one is a protein bar which contains powdered crickets, priced at 700 yen (S$8.75). Cans of tarantula go for 1,900 yen each. The most popular item is salted crickets at 1,300 yen per pack.
Takeo LLC, a Tokyo-based company that manufactures and sells insect snacks, supplies the Kumamoto machine.
About 500 items were bought from the machine during the first month of its operation, the Yomiuri said, and stocks often sell out amid growing interest in eating bugs as a way to help resolve food shortages.
Mr Tomoda likened the flavor of crickets to shrimp and other crustaceans.
"They go well with mayonnaise and ichimi-togarashi cayenne pepper powder," he said.
"I hope the machine will provide people with an opportunity to review the importance of food in this food-infatuated age."