. Govt & Education
vending machines .
The first feature of Tokyo's visual landscape that lets you know that you're definitely not in Anytown, USA anymore is the vending machines. They're big and they're bright and they're everywhere, illuminating even Tokyo's numerous, narrow back alleys in the dead of night. Most are soft drink machines, proudly displaying such concoctions as Pocari Sweat, Calpis Water (that's pronounced "cow-piss"), Aquarius Neo and Kirin Mets, in addition to the usual run of Coke and Pepsi.
Cigarette machines place a close second. It's estimated that 60 percent of all Japanese, and over 80 percent of Japanese men, are smokers. And we're not just talking evening-out, drink-in-hand casual smokers. The typical Japanese smoker is a hard core, Jackie Gleason, four-pack-a-day- after-bypass-surgery type. None of this sissy, standing outside the building crap either. In the office, at the desk, in front of the highly sensitive, state-of-the-art computer terminal -- light 'em up.
But if there's one thing that is as beloved as nicotine for the Tokyoite, it's caffeine. Almost every vending machine dispenses a variety of canned coffee and tea, both hot and cold. The hot ones always catch foreigners off guard. Foreigners never seem to understand that if the drink inside is steaming hot, the metal can is apt to be rather warm as well.