I was in North America for a few hours recently and I grabbed a quick bite in a food court – avoiding the fast food chains (which is really hard) and getting a scratch made sandwich. I walked down the drink aisle and found it depressing. Pop, a few vitamin waters, high sugar energy drinks – a wasteland of unhealthy drinks and obesity in a bottle.

Just so different to Japan where it is pretty clear that the vending machines are one of those secrets to long life and a low BMI.


A North American drink shelf.


Now Japan. In the country with a vending machine for every 13 people, the diversity is amazing. Coffees, green teas, hot – cold, jasmine tea, sparking water (in many flavors), flavored waters sweetened and unsweetened, this grape drink with aloe cubes and everything in between.

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Sure, you can buy a pop (I still love a cold Coke) or a different fizzy drink, but it makes up a very small percentage of the vending machine real estate.


Lattes, vitamin C, milk tea, fiber drinks …

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This is a pretty common sight, 4 or 5 vending machines in a row. They are everywhere.

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Here is my current favorite drink, the “Green Shower”. It is humulus lupulus sparkling water – and has an herbal taste to it.


For those of you who do not know what Humulus Lupulus is (I certainly did not):

Humulus lupulus (common hop or hop) is a species of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, native to Europe, western Asia and North America. It is a dioecious, perennial, herbaceous climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome in autumn. Strictly speaking it is a bine rather than a vine, using its own shoots to act as supports for new growth.

Who are the companies that make all of those healthy, amazing Japanese drinks? Ironically, the same ones that delivery very little choice in North America. Or perhaps, they are delivering what the market wants – which is too bad.



At some point as it chilled in Japan (I love their winter … no snow and 10 degrees, why am I the only one not complaining and in a tee-shirt?) they changed out the vending machines.

Under each of the bottles you now see blue (cold) or red (hot). Truly amazing. When we climbed Mount Mitake, we grabbed a hot green tea and it instantly warmed your hands and body.



The Japanese have the vending machine system nailed. Other countries should learn from them .. and the best thing? Hardly a “coke” in sight, they are filled with different teas (green, jasmine, peach, milk, etc.), corn soup, beer (special machines), sport drinks, different coffees and espressos. Very handy.



I am sure that like thousands of gaijin before us, we find the prevalence of vending machines on so many street corners fascinating; they are everywhere. Our boys are busy stopping at those vending machines and sampling the hundreds of different drinks; banana drinks, traditional pop with unique flavours, a drink where you push the marble into the bottle before drinking and a wide variation of teas and coffees.

Many of these machines are adorned with anime and unique pictures. I am not sure what this vending machine is supposed to be doing, but it looks angry.

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At one vending machine, we simply could not figure the meaning of the buttons. Your options: “YES”, “NO” …. “bunny”?

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