Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

自動販売機・Vending Machines

When Tea was asked what she would miss most about Japan as she prepared to leave after having living in the country for five years, she answered, “Vending Machines.” The first impression of someone else I knew was “There are a lot of vending machines here.” In fact, I recall reading an article several years ago which said Japan glowed from space due to all the vending machines. They are ubiquitous in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I remember (fondly) the cycling trips Tea and I took throughout Japan. We always knew that we would (sooner rather than later) come across a vending machine, even out in the middle of nowhere. I remember sitting in the tent one morning in Shikoku with the rain pouring down. After hot canned coffee from the vending machine, we decided that we would pull up stakes and go. (Of course we heard commentary from one of the three Japanese guys in the tent next to us, “Hey the foreign girls are leaving!”) Go hot Boss coffee!

This brings me to what is so special about Japanese vending machines. Yes, we had hot canned coffee from the vending machine. In all Japanese vending machines, you can get either hot or cold drinks. How many are hot and how many are cold depends on the season, and it’s easy to tell which are which even if you don’t read Japanese. The red bar running under the display can means hot while the blue bar means cold. In the States, you can purchase soda or water, but in Japan the choice extends far beyond this. You can buy water, soda, tea, coffee, cocoa, soup, hot anko soup with mochi (rice balls), etc. You can also buy beer and chu-hai (a Japanese cocktail made with shochu (焼酎), a Japanese alcohol made from barley.) And I’m only talking about machines that sell drinks at the moment. Moving on to the non-liquid category, you can find vending machines that sell hamburgers and other foods, hot. You can even find in hidden corners the vending machines destined for sukebe (dirty old men). Yes, at a conference my friends did find a vending machine selling underwear previously-worn by high-school girls. Personally, I’ll stick to the hot and cold drinks.
Note the corn potage (soup) on the top row, third and fourth from the right. It's right next to the Royal Milk Tea.

A hot can of anything is great to warm your hands and your stomach as you walk down the cold winter streets. While I have spent enough of my life in Japan that I never find this weird, I know it is special to Japan as it is one of the things I miss when I’m back in the States.


Blogger Tea said...

Happiness is a hot can of Milk Tea on a cold winter morning. Of course, I don't even want to think about what they have to do to the milk to make it stable enough to sit around, heated, in a vending machine for days on end . . . Somethings are better not to know.

9:19 AM  
Blogger agiawb said...

Hey Tea.
Definitely true---somethings are better not to know. But, while happiness may be a hot can of Milk Tea, love is a Japanese vending machine. : )

3:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In grad school, my study group did a case study on Coca-Cola, and one of the more interesting points that we ran across in our research was the volume and variety of vending machines in Japan. I remember reading about "singing" vending machines that would play music as you made your selection. Have you seen any of those? How cool would it be if you could post a mini-video clip of one?!

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone say 'Georgia'? Love that hot coffee fresh from the vending machines...and I'm not even a coffee drinker!!! Can't wait to throw down three hundren yen for a Georgia coffee or cold green tea...preferably Kirin! S.

3:49 AM  

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