Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Anyone got a quarter?

You know how they call Japan the “land of the rising sun”? I think they should call it “land of the omnipresent vending machine”.

I come from Colorado, also known as “land of the broken into, vandalized or carted-off-whole vending machine”. Several of my frat brothers got put on probation for bringing home several one blurry night. So I was truly amazed when I got here and saw vending machines on any corner, in front of so many shops, and even sometimes along a deserted stretch of highway.

There are the usual soft drink vending machines. Not so usual, I guess, they sell hot and cold coffee and tea. There are also beer machines (yeah!), machines which sell Japanese sake (rice wine), even ones which sell fifths of scotch whiskey, There are the ever-present cigarette machines, which now require special ID. I think it’s funny that the alcohol and cigarette-dispensing machines all turn off at 11pm, to keep minors from buying. Hell, the minors stop by on their way home from school, still in school uniform and are usually passed out by 11.

There are machines where you can buy 1-, 2- or 5-kg bags of rice (ker-THUNK!). Where you can get freshly microwaved burgers, french fries, cup noodles (peel off the top, put it back in, hit the hot water button), even Japanese fried yakisoba noodles. You can get ice cream by the cup or the cone, even Haagen Dazs. There’s a farmers’ coop near here where you can get cartons of eggs, fresh cabbage, carrots, onions, all at the push of a button. Some sell batteries, others sell razors. I even saw one near a ski area that sold dry socks.

And last but not least, there are the porno machines… The first time I saw one, I just had to walk back and take another look - for purely investigative reasons, of course! Along a lonely stretch of highway, near an area of factories, you’ll see one or more vending machines, all facing away from the road. They usually have a privacy fence around them, as well as security appliques on the glass which prevent anyone from seeing inside except from directly in front of the machine. Here you’ll find hard-core mags, videos, sex toys, even underwear guaranteed to have been worn by a porn queen. Ewww! Hope it wasn’t Flatulent Filly...

Yet not a candy and potato chip-filled monstrosity to be seen.

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