Last year in Nanjing, China, vending machines appeared in and around subway stations selling live “hairy crabs,” or Chinese mitten crabs. A seasonal delicacy prized for their succulent meat, they are kept in little plastic boxes at 42 degrees, which induces in the palm-sized captives a hibernation-like state that keeps them from escaping.
Twin Lake Crab Co., the China-based vendor that sells the creatures for roughly $1.50 to $7 a pop (including condiments), appears to be dominating the growing market.
When it comes to vending as a whole, Japan appears to rule. According to the Automatic Vending Association, in that country there’s one vending machine for every 23 people; in Tokyo alone, the boxes sell everything from live lobsters to lingerie, toilet paper to rhinoceros beetles (a popular child’s pet in a land of tight space).