Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I think I am turning Japanese: Vendor Machine Heaven

I have already mentioned my experience with commodes while I am in Kobe, Japan this week. I have always heard about Japanese technology domination and how advance they are (by some accounts five years ahead!). So far I have not seen any evidence of that. Some laptops are a little smaller, but hey so are most of the people (height and girth- the average person is rather thin). Most cell phones look worn and well used, but nothing really advanced. There is area this is really advanced- vending machines. They are everywhere. Mostly cigarette and drink machines are seen on about every street. But last night we really experienced the advanced nature of Japanese society. I was able to purchase beer from a vending machine. The machine was hidden in a nook on a tiny side street. The machine was worn and looked like it has taken quite a beating. Of course, this isn’t really a technical issue. I just really like beer and being able to purchase it from a vendor machine.

My real question is how they enforce the drinking age. I couldn’t make out what it is here in Japan, at least not from the vending machine itself. Of course I have the same question for there cigarette machine, although I believe the smoking age is 20 or so I gathered from the machines. I think the Japanese are just very lawful. I am a New Yorker and we are known for jay walking. Hey, I am not going to wait for a light when no cars are coming- I have places to be. Last night a lady gave the look of death as I crossed a small street against the light. So it must be general culture to conform and follow the accepted rules.

The real example of an advanced vending machine I experienced at work. The floor of the building of the meeting I was attending didn’t have a typical coffee machine. Three varieties of tea, one Japanese and two Chinese, were provided free of charge via a small machine. The only coffee was available via a vending machine. Sometimes I need a good coffee (America!- side note: Do you know why coffee is so popular in America and not tea like in most of the rest of the world? The Boston tea party- the original anti-corporation protest that started it all- do not tell me it is not American to protest corporate greed. The tea that was thrown overboard in protest of taxes in Boston Harbor belonged to the East Indian Trading company- one of the first corporations. Thank you “Priates of the Caribean”. You enjoy your coffee knowing it is precisely what helped identify you as an American revolutionary. Side note end: I would say I am sorry for the ramble, but I am not.) So I looked over the selection of vendor beverages and saw numerous options with “café” on the can. I choose one, a “Café au Lait” and put in my 100 yen coin. When I retrieved the can I was surprised to find it was heated, almost too hot to hold. And that is the real technical advantage. Hot or cold canned beverages. For overall and layman's perspective this might not seen as a huge technical feat, and I sure do not know much about vending machine design, but my assumption is that there were probably almost 100 things that had to be created to produce these hot/cold vending machines. Usually the further into details you go the more challenges you must overcome. The term “the devil is in the details” comes to mind.

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