Fukushima orchard is home to 'cider shrine'(福島の果樹畑にサイダーの聖地)

Yoshinori Sato, left, and his wife, Hiromi, stand next to their bottled cider vending machine.(サイダーの自動販売機を運営する佐藤義則さん(左)とひろみさん夫妻)

 Vending machines are found all over Japan, but one in a fruit orchard in Fukushima City stands out. It is stocked with bottled ciders from across the nation, including such offerings as salt cider and Toyama black cider. It is known far and wide as a "shrine for cider."
 Yoshinori Sato, 58, and his wife Hiromi, 59, set up the machine, but they did not expect they would continue to operate it for such a long time.


 Yoshinori, a vending machine installer, set up a machine in 2010 to sell wild plants that the couple picked in nearby mountains. It was an attempt to advertise the machines he was selling, but the highly perishable wild plants often went bad before they sold.
 Hiromi then came up with the idea of selling bottled cider, which was popular at a restaurant she was running on Mt. Shinobu in the city.


 The cider vending machine quickly became popular because of its novelty. Once introduced on TV, it became famous nationwide. But then the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, and people stopped coming to buy cider. Worse, someone stole cider and money from the machine. But, these mishaps didn't stop the couple from their vending efforts, as they "sell ciders we want to drink no matter what."


 Eleven years have passed since the vending machine was installed. Customers from outside the prefecture are increasing now, and sales are gradually recovering. Even so, the couple barely make a profit because they stock rare products from all over the country.
 They say the vending machine is their treasure and they will look after it as if it were a child. It sells two bottles for ¥500.

( Translated by The Japan News )


 【 2021年8月21日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】