Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Japanese Vending Machines


I bought this candy vending machine toy on a whim while at a department store in Japan. It’s silly and utterly unnecessary, but at the time it amused me. When the card is popped into the vending machine slot, lights go on and sound comes out and then the candy comes out (or at least it did when the toy was new and the battery was fresh). I like the fake little brands for the drinks (some of which are obviously based upon real brands). I just think it’s funny that a vending machine would be made into a toy (I mean really, vending machines aren’t exactly the most exciting thing out there). But it is a Japanese vending machine, which is better than an American one…at least I think so.
 




It’s pretty rare for me to purchase a beverage from a vending machine in the U.S. Besides the heavy markup in price, there are limited drink options (most of which I’m not particularly interested in). I prefer to carry my water bottle filled with water from home. However, I do have a soft spot for vending machines in Japan, and I admit that I bought my fair share of drinks from them once upon a time ago.

The whole point of vending machines is the convenience and instant gratification they bring; there’s no waiting. And there seemed to be an abundance of vending machines no matter where you went in Japan; in neighborhoods, parks, tourist areas and my favorite of all: the middle of nowhere. You could be on a road in the countryside, and standing alone and surrounded by rice patties would be a vending machine. So random, and yet sometimes it was such a welcome sight (especially when the next convenience store was inconveniently far away).

Unlike American vending machines, there was always a drink I could drink from a Japanese one. Part of the problem I have with American vending machines is the lack of variety of the beverages, since a vast majority is just soda and water with the occasional juice, sports drink or coffee thrown into the mix. Sometimes you just want something that has flavor without the all the sweetness and carbonation, so I really appreciated the plain green tea and oolong tea in Japanese vending machines (that were of course, sugarless). That’s not to say I didn’t drink sugary drinks, but I preferred the milk tea and coffee to the soda and juice.

The last thing I really liked about Japanese vending machines is that often enough the same vending machine could give out hot or cold drinks, which was really great for tea and coffee. Depending on the time of year or whether it was day or night, you could get coffee or tea that was hot or cold (and there’s something very comforting about holding a warm can of milk tea on a cold winter’s night). But since I no longer have the luxury of having access to a Japanese vending machine, I guess I’ll have to settle by making tea the old-fashioned way…at home. [Pause.] It’s not quite the same.



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