A Rule of Thumb: Vending Machines

Vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Japan, most common are the ones that have drinks like hot cans of coffee or bottled water. There’s also the ‘gambling’ vending machines, where you put in about $10 and can get anything from a hat to a camera, or nothing at all. I’ve seen a building with nothing but vending machines, and then you sit down at the counter and eat. You can get french fries, hard boiled eggs… I know, right.

But besides the obvious reasons, vending machines can be a good way of gauging the part of Tokyo you’re in. Take a can of coffee, for instance. To make the can and the coffee, it’s probably really worth like 40 cents. When it’s put in the vending machine, the coffee is priced by how much people in the town would be willing to pay for it. On average, a can is $1.00. In Ginza, it’ll be about $2.00. And in the Yakuza part of Yokohama I was in on Sunday (long story) that can was $0.50. I was sorely tempted to stock up, but there was a guy yelling at me to “Get the hell out!” (of the town, I assume) as he hastily packed up his van full of suspicious items. 50 cent coffee in Tokyo, I’m sorely tempted to go back…

There was a nice Yakuza guy in a purple coat and cowboy boots who said hello to me, though, in broken English with a big smile.

Anyway! It was an interesting part of town. It went from Chanel and boutiques to slums in about one block. The Yakuza HQ–I think it’s the Inagawa-kai family that runs Yokohama–is like right beside a police booth. I was told they kinda run the town together; immigrants from South East Asia live there to work at the docks and there are other people looking for… work. The police and the Yakuza kinda have a mutual understanding, as it were. It was no worse than what you might see in North Philly, but the Yakuza presence is very out in the open. I could go on and on about it, but now I’m craving some coffee…

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