What's the number one thing to come out of vending machines in Japan? You could make a pretty blue joke right now, but this is a family blog so I'll stick to the honest answer: drinks!
Not only are there lots of drinks in vending machines, there are also lots & lots (& lots) of drinks in shops. It's amazing the selection of both alcoholic & non alcoholic beverages in Japan. In carton format, in cans, in bottles, whatever you can dream of, they've put a drink in it. Here's an extremely cool example. I took a couple covert snaps inside of a Lawson 100, a discount store like a Dollar Tree or a Poundland except in Japan and 100 yen. Of course, not everything was just 100 yen, as you can see the alcohol was about double that price, making it an amazingly just over a £1 a can, for drinks that range in ABV from nothing to 9 percent. Oh, did I mention they all taste really nice & well blended? Because they do.
Calpis Sours are really, really nice. I also had those 'Strong' chu-hi drinks a lot, and they give you quite a fun buzz with a zesty, fruity taste. They're mostly citrus fruits, so it does a good job masking the taste of alcohol. The 'Strong Zero' variety are zero sugar, and they weren't nearly as nice - tasted a bit bitter for the most part. There are a bunch more of these canned boozy drinks, some of which I will get more in-depth with later on in this post.
I took this picture mostly because Energy Water cracked me up, and I never want to forget that it exists. Now these cartons are just 100 yen - unbelievable, huh? That's less than a £1, and just about a $1 for a liter of Honey & Apple juice, or Chardonnay Water. Or hey, even Energy Water. There's a bigger selection than this, I just snapped a quick one, but you can also expect cartons of pre-mixed lattes, flavored milks the likes of which you've never seen, royal milk tea, mochas, ramune flavored juice (?), and many more esotasty things. Esotasty is esoteric & tasty - feel free to use it.
Here's a drink I had a couple times - they have a lot of fresher coffee variants like this, from various brands. This Starbucks one was probably my favorite, as it was salted caramel. Of course it's my favorite, if you read this blog much at all that's no shock! The rest of these fresh, refrigerated coffees were quite nice - mostly very milky & sweet, like canned coffees but these tasted less canned. Makes sense! It wasn't a very saline-heavy drink, it seemed like they increased the sugar quotient in the caramel & then added a bit of salt. It was still very nice - not as good as a fresh salted caramel mocha from Starbucks (wish they'd bring it back this year) but hey - not bad at all.
We only went to McDonald's twice on the trip, the menu at the time was actually quite boring - not boring, however, were the McFizzes. These particular ones are the McFizz McFloats, in the flavors of McMelon & McMango. They were so generous with the soft serve, it was definitely more a dessert than a drink. However, it was still refreshing! Like the McFizz in Singapore, it was heavy on the syrup at the bottom so you have to mix it up a bit, but when you do it's a nicely balanced fruity drink. These are such a cool idea, it's a good way for a company like McDonald's to experiment with different flavors at a low cost - it's just the syrup investment.
This was a strange one, but I really enjoyed it - my husband loved it! It was so sour and mouthwatering, as you drank it you just wanted more. I think the zero meant no sugar, and if this contained actual vinegar it was probably a pretty healthy drink. Or it was just super-sour artificially sweetened water. Either way, I liked it loads and wish there was a drink half as sour that was readily available!
This was another weird one, a bottled soda float experience. I'd say it did a fairly good job of replicating the middle portion of a float - where the ice cream & soda first converges. It was thicker than soda, tasted a bit vanilla-y, but mostly like sweet Japanese cider, which sort of tastes like Sprite. So, kind of like thickened vanilla Sprite but in a really cute opaque color & with adorable label art. Not as refreshing as some of the other drinks I had, considering the thicker consistency - but definitely a nice way to get a little sugar in your system.
I really love bubble tea, and going around to London's varied bubble tea places is always a big treat. I've found one very near my office and I'm trying hard not to go everyday - so it stays special. If I lived in Japan, it would be impossible not to drink one of these everyday.
Oh yeah! On the shelf of convenience stores, just grab yourself a coconut milky bubble tea! This was delicious - thick like coconut milk (might've even been that) and lots of little pearls. I've heard rumors of Asian grocery stores in London stocking canned bubble tea...but I've yet to see evidence of that. Although I'm not sure canned would be that nice...
I mentioned earlier all these delish, fruity chu-hi boozy drinks, here are 3 that we bought one night. The hi-ball was my husband's, he liked it. The 'Roomy', while I don't have any idea what it means, was very nice and light. Peachy with a touch of apricot. The apple was super nice, very red & juicy tasting. All of them have a slight taste of alcohol, but it's nice and subtle.
Well, that's drinks of Japan for you! There were a few more I had at restaurants, but I'm going to save those for another round-up...a restaurant one, haha.