Thursday, July 06, 2006
Taste of Japan
I've mentioned that vending machines were everywhere in Japan, but many of them had rather similar beverages. Lots of canned and bottled coffees and teas, some Coke and Coke variants, some water offerings, some bizarre drinks that puported to give you a certain vitamin and looked as if they were made out of barley, etc. And liquor, too -- beer and sake, mostly -- but whiskey in at least one.
But our favorite machines quickly became those from brewing company Suntory (yes, the very company for which Bill Murray was shilling in his "Lost in Translation" commercial). We discovered a melon soda called Bubble Man II at our ryokan in Gunma. The soda itself was freakishly sweet, but the can was just hilarious. First off, it proclaimed that Bubble Man was from "Soda Planet." Then, it was as if the Ambiguously Gay Duo were illustrating the can. There's an interior view of their rocket, and the guy labeled "Captain Pilot" is sitting on the shoulders of a guy labeled "Assistant." There's another shot of the two guys in a spaceship with their legs and feet hanging out through the holes, as if Fred Flintstone was driving the rocket, with feet for brakes.
After we'd dissected the design of the can endlessly, Sue then latched on to the name, wondering about the fate of Bubble Man 1. Was it retired? Did it ever exist? What flavor was it? I said that I'd seen Bubble Man Grape when we were out walking -- could that be Original Recipe Bubble Man? We decided it had to be. Our mission was clear: We needed to find it again.
And we did! It had staked out a spot in a rain-soaked vending machine near Dotonbori Street in Osaka. It held court next to another can of our melony friend, Bubble Man II, and its happily diverse and gay-friendly pal, Tropical Rainbow soda. (Said Rob: "How cool would it be if the Tropical Rainbow stayed layered like the can, kind of like Jello 1-2-3?" Sadly, it did not defy gravity in quite that way.)
See attached photo for the happy reunion of the entire Bubble Man family. (Note Original Bubble Man shaking his fist and yelling...something in Japanese, we have no idea what.) There was something about the happily decorated cans, the crazy-ass graphics, and the bright colors that made them stand out among sodas worldwide, and we immediately fell under their spell. You don't even want to know how many of these cans we hauled home on the plane. I only just recycled the last one two days ago.