Among the more prominent features of each and every Japanese street I walked down were the vending machines. Whether it was next to a love hotel, a legit hotel, a Uniqlo, on a subway platform, down an otherwise dark and quiet alley – one could always find a vending machine stocked with all sorts of drinks.
Given my penchant for lattes and the fact that Japan is not [I repeat is NOT] a coffee country, I was curious about the choices in the vending machines, particularly in out of the way places such as Mt. Fuji. Vending machines would have their usual offerings of water, Gatorade-type drinks, sodas and cold tea, and this included a brand called “Mets Cola” – most likely a result of the days of Osaka native Kazuo Matsui’s playing for the New York Mets [Matsui signed with the New York Mets in 2003, becoming the first Japanese infielder to sign with a U.S. Major League Baseball team].
Each vending machine had a few rows of drinks and I noticed that some rows were blue and some red. I was curious about this, so I put in a 100 Yen coin (just a bit more than one U.S. dollar] and chose a small can marked “café au lait.” This can was in the vending machine red zone.
To my delight when it was dispensed, the can of café au lait was piping hot. A hot quasi facsimile of an acceptable coffee beverage from a vending machine – genius. This is why I love Japanese vending machines.