Never out of sight
Fully automated ticket vendors at the station. A practical option
that was chosen to ease the load on people standing in line for
something as simple... something as often necessary as paying
their fare. Vending machines as opposed to another ill-mannered
legend of trying replace human workforce, are meant to serve in
areas where their necessity became all too evident. For example,
automating the most basic tasks of the stations made Tokyo, and
all of Japan be able to keep its superb railway system as its
preferred choice of transportation for the twenty-first century.
You can try and stand in line at the window to buy the same thing,
but if it will take just half a minute longer per person, you
can imagine what it would do to the veins of the city... in a
downtown rush-hour... so this was not an option anymore.
On the other side of the story, when thirsty or in need of a coffee,
you don't have to walk any more than fifty meters to find a vendor
( selling the brands of its operating company ), and even able
to buy things at places like in school in the afternoon, in the
parking lot at the top of a mountain and on a deserted suburban
street at two in the morning. You'll like it for practical reasons,
but even kids who have something for pushing buttons will become
bored of having to face a machine when buying drinks... not to
mention that a vendor will never have as much of a selection as
And the people who in fact are the most picky for variety in the
entire world... will always opt for the nearest store when possible,
when available at all, but... when they can't, don't have the
time for, or are at a location where there's simply no such option,
vending machines can be a lifesaver. So if you did so far... please
don't hate them. Japanese vendors are so reliable they'll never
swallow a single coin without giving something in return.
Perhaps especially for short time visitors, trying a lot of variety
in refreshers can be a lot of fun... a lot of fun and a lot of
disappointment if they can't remember which brands they liked
and which they didn't. Vending machines are a great source to
carry on this hobby wherever you are... and sooner or later you'll
even start remembering brands that all Japanese grew up on. And
that a Kirin featured machine won't be likely to sell Ito En products,
and Coca-Cola is rarely included Sapporo automates. The variety
in all kinds of drinks... tea, soda, juices, milk, coffee and
beer... is huge... and variety is always exciting. If you haven't
already, be sure to try the hot-honey-lemonade drink of ItoEn
and compare it with the hot-honey-plum drink's taste. They look
so similar in their little PET bottles... and yet...
An interesting thing is to make a mistake and buy something you
didn't want but since you've bought it, and of course at least
try its taste to minimize the financial burden... you sometimes
even end up liking it after all.
There are some pretty creative ( ... ) combinations out there.
Hot and Cold
Vending machines for drinks not only sell cold refreshers, but
also keep hot drinks on their proper temperature. In case you
never have hold hot steel-canned coffee or honey-lemonade in a
PET bottle, don't need to panic. They won't likely to burn your
hands any longer than fifteen seconds... but then again for the
same attribute they serve as a replacement two-in-one pocket warmer
from October to march... for which they're widely recognized and
admired for. Be careful that some drinks are sold both hot and
cold, so don't just look for the can, but also the little bar
on the shelf informing you whether it's the hot or the cold version...
with a symbolism even a little child could understand. And even
a completely sane and sober person can forget to watch out for.
Well, the secret uncovered is... red is for hot. Blue is for cold.
Deep in Sannai, Nikko
Japanese tea is... delicious because of its fragrance. Or so
the commercials say. Let it be said right here that no matter
what kind of overseas version you have encountered with a Japanese
manufacturer... there is no green tea, not even bottled that has
any sugar in it. There are many kinds made by a lot of companies,
but when trying to add a new product to this sensitive line of
traditional refreshers there's always a chance of a major mistake
so... tea remains to be tea through the ages, even in a PET bottle.
There are a lot of subversions to minor flavoring and the different
methods of preparing green tea are always made into separate brands,
but the most common is the unflavored classic and the jasmine
Oolong cha... well... is definitely only for those who have -learned-
to like it probably from childhood. At the downright opposite
end to Juusu, it's clear, refreshing, somewhat bitter taste is
a favorite among people who like to know that they are drinking
to make their thirst go away and not for entertainment purposes.
Lemon tea, red tea, black tea, milk tea... basically the English
version of tea is also present on the market with a relatively
noticeable share... brands like Lipton have kept their foothold
being the only major company that sells western-style tea in a
tea loving country... well at least sell it in such a manner.
And since Lipton has its drinks flavored with sugar and lemon
more often than not, their products really are an alternative
to the traditions of green tea for those who are used to sweetness
in this kind of drink.
Ever changing variety in seasonal
Juusu or juice in general is what Europeans call refreshers and
Americans soda. None of the three means anything else than that
people got tired of having to name everything by their substance
and level of carbonation... thus in Japan everything is Juusu.
As it's everything is soda in America. The selection is great,
and are the tastes... most of the time they're more sweet than
the average person can handle, but thus well balancing the fact
that apart from this genre there are no sweet drinks in the country.
The most common of the most drinkable are the fruit based carbonated
sodas. With a percentage of biologically acceptable content somewhere
between twenty to fifty they're probably world class of their
kind. Both Kirin and Sapporo tend to give each other a race in
taste of apple and grape based refreshers as of this is written,
leading to an interesting boom of new brands actually tasting
like fruit. A more character themed version is also available
who like golden pears in a suggestive enough package we'll let
you have the fun to find yourself.
The most common of the most popular are more food-paint based
than anything else, but are an important part of culture because
of their widely spread use as a coloring for ice-cream and shaved-ice
cones. Yes, it's melon soda. As vibrant neon green as nothing
else in the universe and basically tasting like liquid sugar,
but being somewhat addictive it has become an irreplaceable icon
of refreshers in the country, just like other classics such as
International brands like Coca-Cola, DrPepper, and subversions
of Fanta of all kinds ( fro red grape to pineapple ) are also
available in so many types of cans you won't likely be able to
keep track. A general hint on this is that if the can is not closable
after opening... it will probably cost less, even if it holds
more... or perhaps exactly because it holds more than you can
drink at once.
From pure fruit juices apple juice is the one made most common
in Japan, tastes good, is made of real apples and isn't expensive
at all. On the other hand people who are used to drinking orange
juice will find that while it is available, neither the variety
nor the price is the same as in California for example. Simply
because in Japan there aren't as many orange groves. And since
many of the popular juices are a level higher in cost than regular
refreshers, the target audience consists of mainly those who need
or think they need vitamins the most, children and adults leading
a health-conscious lifestyle. Thus drinks that feature less common
fruits as their base are - more often than not - themed to appeal
to either of the above two categories.
Vitamin enriched versions with health mascots and characters may
scare some people away, especially those who don't know that this
has nothing to do with how seriously you can take the list of
ingredients. Needn't worry, just because it has such packaging...
or perhaps exactly because it is actually aimed to be appealing
to children, the contents can definitely be trusted to be healthy.
But other than 100% fruit content juices you'll find a much larger
variety, with things like mikan ( mandarin ), melon, aloe, and
other kinds being also a common sight.
Hot coffee and tea
Shibuya Station, Tokyo
Unless you have known this from a different source you'd probably
be amazed how big of a tradition Japan has in drinking coffee.
This of course is not limited to the canned version of the drink,
but rather is reflected by it, resulting in a selection of so
many different brands and blends that even the Japanese have a
hard time keep track of.
In general the basics are pretty much the same as everywhere in
the world, regardless of which company has put the series on the
Black coffee is... black coffee. Bitter and untouched of any other
flavor than its own blend.
Then there's the most common, most popular miruku-koohii or kafe-ore
kofe-latte which stand for milk coffee, coffee au lait and coffee
latte. Well for those who know coffee, or have some sense in foreign
languages, yes, the similarity is of no coincidence... meaning
they're exactly the same thing. At least ingredient-wise, milk
coffee includes the same amount of sugar, milk and coffee in most
products, a quite smooth, mildly sweet... more tasty than functional
option for those who don't like the bitterness but can't live
And there are the special blends with flavors like almond or vanilla,
which are the least common and least commonly looked for... if
you're up to drinking melange and other newborn coffee fantasies,
you better head to a cafe instead of standing in front of a vendor.
It be prepared that while coffee au lait is around a hundred and
twenty yens at most, the next level in service and class starts
around twice to three times as much.
Milk drinks as supposed to by the fact that they sit in a machine
for weeks before consumed... rarely contain any more milk than
ten percent. But are nonetheless delicious, especially ichigo-milk,
or ichigo-ore ( strawberry milk ) which is a good alternative
Vending machine pit stop
Cans, PET bottles and bins ( glass bottles )
Basically these are the three kinds of containers you can expect.
Cans themselves have two major kinds, the more common being closable
like a bottle, but otherwise made all-aluminium like its non-closable
classic ancestor. PET bottles come in all kinds of shapes and
sizes, the smallest around two to three deciliters, up to half
a liter. Most tea, water, and health drinks are sold in half liter
bottles. Coffee and other hot canned drinks are sold in small,
two deciliter steel cans that will lose their outside temperature
fast enough for people to be able to hold them, and are so much
heavier you'll always think that there're still some of the stuff
left there somewhere, but don't sweat it too much, it's just an
illusion... other than that, coffee sometimes is filled into small
glass bottles with a non-reclosable top.
Most vending machines have the a set of recycle bins next to them
of the same type as the bottles and cans they offer. If you haven't
found any you just didn't look hard enough, for on busy spots
they're often hidden inside a wall or so, and only the suggestively
shaped top can be seen... indicating which type of bottle should
you drop into it.
You won't find a trashcan in Japan. There are only recycle bins
for each and every type of consumable products, and they're never
too far away to walk up to with your waste, so please recycle.
It has never been so easy.
Shinjuku Gyoen admission tickets
The tickets that you use to enter imperial park gates are also
bought at such machines. However, in case you want to you can
walk up to the ticket window just like at a train station.
Cigarette vendor and cigarette kiosk
Cigarette vending machines can be found accompanying other kinds
most of the time, and are nearly always put to well visible corners
of the street. Theoretically no underage person should buy tobacco
even from such an automate but... apart of the machines shutting
off at sunset and turn back on only at sunrise when the rush-hour
begins... there's not much the operators can do about this freedom.
Most major brands, including the internationally known ones...
well... or rather including some others next to the internationally
known ones... can be bought at these vendors, and for the same
money they cost anywhere else.
Beer and other alcoholic drinks are also one of the most common
merchandise you can get by pushing the right button, but are placed
perhaps even more with the above concern in mind than tobacco
vendors. And before you start to wonder, just because the logo
said Kirin on the side of the box it doesn't necessarily mean
anything else than you're facing a Kirin operated vendor. And
Kirin manufactures a lot of other things beside its world famous
beer. The second most common and most popular drink type is the
canned fruit flavored soda-like version of different well known
spirits, around the same as beer in strength, somewhat sweet,
definitely fully packed with the semi-artificial flavors we all
know and like so much... and are most of the time so flashy in
their package design you just have to have them. Otherwise alcohol
you can buy on the street is quite limited, head for a convenience
store for a somewhat larger... or to an izakaya or yakitoriya
for a more complete selection and more proper place to drink.
Use your change
Train ticket vendors
Although visitors coming from a country with a currency at least
as strong as Australian dollars will likely to disregard their
change when thinking about money... they really shouldn't. Every
single coin has its significance once you have accustomed to the
fact that vending machines are only as convenient as much proper
coins you have on you. Not that most of them can't take a bill...
you can even pay with the ten thousand yen you have, but paying
with a one gram piece of paper for a hundred and fifty yen drink
or train ticket... and receiving half a kilo of spare change will
increase your load in an unnecessary manner.
Most vending machines can and will give as much change in bills
as they have though. But all in all, those coins will do great
when buying drinks, paying on buses, buying tickets at train stations,
or making a long distance phone-call without a telephone card.
Visa, border entry, what to bring and be prepared with
- Japanese maps,
Navi mobile navigation, easy orientation for travelers
stores, the resupply stations that sell everything
- Japanese Vending
machines, for drinks, tickets, cigarettes and more
- Japanese Food, and
all kinds of food in Japan, restaurants, fast food, cheap food...
- Tokyo - as we see it
- Budget Tokyo
apartment rental, accommodation, let go of the concern
- Tokyo Prices, the
real cost vs. western legends, how to make most of your budget
- Cheap Tokyo Stores, bargain
tips, where to find what, fashion to electronics
- Tokyo Cafe life, a
guide to Cafes serving as meeting points, hangouts and life-savers
- Tokyo Parks
and Gardens, well maintained icons of tranquility, tradition
or having fun
- The Tokyo crowd...
escaping from Tokyo to Tokyo, evading downtown rushhours