Random Stuff I Love About Japan – Canned Coffee

I have decided this year to do a weekly post of a less serious nature. Something where I share with you my experiences in Japan. The fun stuff, the frustrating stuff and everything in-between. Sort of like the good, the bad and the ugly. Except Japan is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, so I’ll replace ‘ugly’ with ‘weird’.

To kick this series off allow me to spend a while extolling the glories of canned coffee.

A photo of canned coffee

The classic ‘over-promise, under-deliver’ marketing technique.

When I lived in Sendai, I was in a little flat – more like a bed sit really – so I had to go to the launderette (the ‘coin laundry’ as Japanese would have it) to wash my clothes. It was just far and close enough to my apartment that it made sense to wait there. So I would go down with my bag of laundry and make sure to also take with me some reading (often Conan the Detective – possibly the greatest manga ever created).

But most importantly I would take a spare 120 yen so that I could purchase some canned coffee to drink whilst I waited. There is just something incredibly…fitting about canned coffee in those sort of situations. They complete the moment. If I was better with words I’d explain how, but for now you’ll just have to take my word for it. Canned coffee = happiness.

A couple of years ago I was overjoyed (can you be ‘underjoyed’?) to see that Starbucks had brought canned coffee to the UK. But tragically it didn’t take off, and now you struggle to find them anywhere. Why?

The main blame probably lies with you. Well, did you buy any? No, and now I can’t. Thanks!

But a second factor is that in the UK we do not have vending machines. Not like they do in Japan. Forget Batman and Robin. These ubiquitous dispenses of caffeinated wonder combine with canned coffee to create the greatest double team the world has ever seen.

They are everywhere. Like, literally everywhere. Like, genuinely literally everywhere. As in, you spend the entire morning climbing a mountain–there’s a vending machine at the peak. You go to the beach–vending machine (yes, on the sand!). Run 80 minutes out of the city, winding around rice fields until you reach the edge of civilization–there, standing as a guardian statue you will find (I know because I did!) a vending machine, in full working order, fully stocked and offering you a selection of beverages ranging from ice coffee to hot lemon and chilled sports drinks.

That’s right: the genius of Japanese vending machines is that they offer both hot and cold canned drinks. So in the winter you can get some nice hot canned coffee to warm your hands and belly, and in the summer you can enjoy chilled canned coffee to cool down your body and soul. They’re like Saint Bernards: always there when you need them.

Which brings me to the main reason I love canned coffee. I have so many memories of times in Japan when I’m out traveling with a friend and we need to wait for a bus or train. It doesn’t matter where we are – main train station in Sendai, or deserted outpost in Akita – there is a vending machine, faithfully waiting to provide us with canned coffee to enjoy together.

So there you have it. Canned coffee: body warming, ice breaking, moment completing, friendship strengthening, heart comforting… quite possibly the greatest invention of mankind.

I can tell you’re not totally sold on this. OK, one final reason to love canned coffee: they gave birth to a whole stream of adverts starring Tommy Lee Jones as an alien adjusting to life in Japan. Yes, you read that right. Check it out:


Even without understanding the Japanese I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

There is much more that could be said about canned coffee, but hopefully that’s given you a taste (pun fully intended!) for the reasons I enjoy it so much.


6 thoughts on “Random Stuff I Love About Japan – Canned Coffee

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  4. Pingback: Do I Love Japan? Lust subverts our calling. Love fulfills our calling. | Reversed Thunder

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