Experiencing Japan through vending machines

One of my favorite ways to experience a place is through street foods. Young and old, rich and poor, men and women all enjoy a quick pick-me-up at some point, and that makes street feed the great equalizer. When I was in Japan in May of 2008, I was mesmerized by the sheer number of vending machines on the streets that supplement (and, in some neighborhoods, replace) street vendors.

Not one to pass up an opportunity to enjoy some local flavor (pun alert!), I purchased a bottle of amino suppli3 on my first day. Amused by the name of the beverage, I snapped a photo of the bottle. Later that same day, while waiting for a train, I purchased an Ice Cocoa on the platform because the metal bottle caught my eye. Again, I snapped a photo and then enjoyed the cool, chocolaty liquid. It was at that moment that I realized that I was on to something: Japan (or at least Tokyo) is less about street food and more about street vending machines. And I was going to document that.

Over ten days in Japan I purchased and drank 26 different beverages from vending machines. And I took a picture of every single one of them. Some, like Pocari Sweat, were great. Others tasted like Robitussin. All of them, however, were part of one of my favorite activities in Japan: exploring the local flavors. Because of that, they are all fond memories.

How do you explore new places? Have you ever created an interesting album of foods or drinks from a specific trip? Share your story with us in the comments.