Japanese Vending Machines

Japanese Vending Machines 4

For the next three days, while Jane attended her trade fair in Odaiba and Kim and I explored Tokyo and Nikko, every moment we passed a vending machine was an “I bloody dare ya” moment. Coin after coin went into their slots, and can after empty can went into their convenient yet environmentally-responsible built-in recycling chutes.

This picture shows one of Kim’s dares to me: Dakara Life Partner. “I already have a life partner who helps me Keep Good Balance,” I objected, but it was no use: I’d just got him with a bottle of brown liquid labelled with pictures of bamboo (Panda Fanta?), so it was my turn.

To my relief, Dakara wasn’t half bad (i.e., half of it was bad, but the other half kept it in good balance). It was just a sweet sports drink like Lucozade. Worse was the one next to it, the Lipton Limone, which I assumed was just like iced tea anywhere and tried without even being dared, in the forlorn hope of refreshment. (It isn’t like iced tea anywhere.)

The worst self-inflicted drink, though, was Kim’s: that very night I dared him to try another brand of Panda Fanta, the one advertised with a picture of a sexy young woman in a white dress standing in a field under the words POWER MY BEAUTY; but he wasn’t having any of it—he was getting apple juice instead. He put in his 20-yen coins, pushed the button... and realised he’d pushed the Panda Fanta button by mistake, thanks to my devious brainwashing. This time he didn’t even try it. A hundred and twenty yen down the drain.

We saw more than one person drinking that stuff on the bullet train. It only goes to show the power of culture over the humble tastebud. What must Japanese people think when they visit Britain? “Where are all the vending machines? What’s this weird blackcurrant drink? Where’s the wheat tea?” (Which is what Panda Fanta is, apparently. “The aroma of this tea will remind you of a refreshing open grassland.” No kidding. And the taste.)

May 2006

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