Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beer, bras and donburi: they're all just a vending machine away

People often ask me if I am a good cook. To this I reply: I've got some skills, but I am definitely, 100 percent, much better at eating. I am really good at going out to eat too. You should see me! I like nearly everything about a restaurant meal...except paying the check. You've just had some wine, a good chat, and stuffed yourself silly. There has never been a worse time to do math and, if it's a fancy pants night, hand over the equivalent of a month's rent in Calcutta. I would much rather pay up front, so that by the time I've thoroughly stained my shirt with Sriracha, slurped the oysters, or dragged the last piece of naan around the empty, curry stained, bowl I can leave in a happy daze and pretend the meal was free.

It appears some people in Japan felt the same way. Introducing: the vending machine restaurant! It's the perfect solution for those who'd rather avoid the end-of-meal bill and pretty much any interaction with a server.

Here's what you do: walk into the restaurant, choose your meal by pushing a button on the vending machine, and insert cash. The vending machine spits out a little ticket that you hand to a server, who wordlessly whisks it out of your hand, only to return with your meal in minutes flat.

Now, this is far from fine dining. The donburi vending machine restaurant near my work is basically the equivalent of a greasy spoon diner, and to be perfectly honest, after 3 visits, I swore I would never go back. Yes, three. I really like pushing the button on the vending machine. The donburi in the photo might look tasty, but it might as well be a pile of salt, shaped and painted to look like food, topped with a slimy egg and fatty meat. This doesn't mean all vending machine restaurants are crap. I'm sure some are quite tasty. I hope to find the tasty ones so that I can enjoy pushing the button and partake in a delicious meal.

Japan is famous for its vending machines, and according to Wikipedia, there are over 5 million of them scattered around the country, one for every 23 people, selling everything from live lobsters to freshly popped popcorn, umbrellas, underwear and sex toys.

Here in Kanazawa, I haven't seen such an impressive variety, but we do have a particular type of vending machine that I hold close to my heart. The beer vending machine. Correction: the beer, cocktails in a can and sake vending machine. Fuck the Flowbee, this is an amazing invention! It's 3am and all the stores are closed? Beer vending machine to the rescue! It's 3am and you need a new bra? Yes, there is a vending machine for this as well. In walking distance of my apartment. My boobs have never been so lucky.


  1. J-
    Sadly the only thing close WE had in the US of A was the automat- and the last of those shut down I think 10 years ago. Leave it to the J to take a good idea and make it so much better. It's comforting to those of us you left behind in your turbulent wake, to picture you safe and sound...drinking whatever beer you want at 3am, wearing a new purple leopard-print bra.
    May I make a blog request? I hear Xmas over there is a little...different. Any chance of some interesting holiday snapshots or stories?


  2. Hmmm...I'm afraid I don't much to say on the subject! The thing with Christmas here is that they don't really celebrate it since most people are Buddhist. BUT they still put up pretty lights all over downtown, play Christmas music in the shops and sell decorations at the 100yen shop. I dunno why. Apparently the tradition is for young couples go on a date on Christmas. People don't get the day off of work and I don't think they buy each other gifts. I wrote a little thing in my school's monthly newsletter about hanukkah, and the next day a student came running up to me and excitedly yelled "Are you JEW???!!" That was pretty funny.

  3. I say you go on a date on Christmas then. Live like the locals.

  4. Well for a long time Japanese have loved Jewish people. Maybe because awhile back there was a movie about a Japanese man who did his best to save Jews during WWII. Or simply that Jews as you may have noticed aren't very common in japan.

    As for Christmas it is seen as a kind of young adults holiday. A time to be silly or romantic instead of feeling the obligation of tradition that dictates other times of the year like New Years or Obon.