In Japan, the majority of vending machines sell beverages. I don’t have exact figures, and I’m sure there is probably a really important social scientific study that addresses this perplexing phenomenon. But you’ll just have to take my word for it that most vending machines -not all- sell cans or bottles of drinks. Sure, of course there are snacks that are sold from machines as well. Drinks and food, oh yeah, and cigarettes as well (save that conundrum for another time). Even a small town of say 2 or 3000 people will have at least a couple dozen within a few square kilometers.
Take these ones for example:
So one chilly afternoon on the way to a pungent (think boiled eggs) hot spring nestled in the woods, driving down a curvy road between Beppu and Usa on the island of Kyushu, we came across a vending machine that stood out from the rest. Placed apart from the other beverage dispensers was a faded grey, somewhat vintage vending machine. Complete with neat, catalog-like generic pictures attached to the front of the boxes, these items I discovered, were women’s underwear.
I don’t know. I suppose someone thought it would be a good idea to sell underwear from a vending machine in the middle of nowhere. No judgement here. It is what it is…or was…..
I’ll be in Osaka by this time next month. That reality seems distant now, but I’m sure it will creep up on me all too soon. Accordingly, I’m not really in a Japan-centric frame of mind right now. No surprise there I guess, what with all the loose ends I need to take care of here before I can leave.
What better opportunity then to re-visit some of the less generic experiences I had last time around in Japan. I can assure you, it hasn’t all been cherry blossoms, green tea, and hot springs while living there (but possibly a large chunk of it was). Japan offers so much more than the majestic temples and graceful shrines you’ll find scattered across the archipelago. And sure, you can snare some cutting-edge technology, browse your favourite manga, buy some eccentric flavour of instant noodles or carbonated beverage. I mean, you can do all of that and then some. I guess the point is, there are a lot of different angles/groups/sub-cultures/trends, etc. to explore in Japan once you delve beyond the facade of the Japan most widely disseminated and most intuitive to the average observer.
I hope to shed some light on lesser know aspects of Japan, that perhaps some may find interesting, while some may not. By the way, please don’t mistake my intentions here: I aim to be an impartial observer, merely commenting on what I see. The lens through which I view Japan is informed by the dual scope of experience and formal education. The road to completing a Masters Degree in 2011 was one on which I found new paths of interpretation and honed the necessary analytical skills to sift through the murky layers of rhetoric.
If I can document my experiences here and utilize them for future research, then I will have fulfilled at least one goal. If I can offer the reader a narrative which is engaging, and informs one of the processes at work in Japan then bonus.
Now, I must root through my database of pictures on my older laptop, and find the first narrative that i will share with you.
Stay tuned…or don’t, I guess it doesn’t matter at this point.