While we were wandering around Japan (in a town just south of Yokohama), I noticed how clean the streets were. I commented on it almost every time we went outside (which was often: in January, it was still 50-60 degrees on most days). In the U.S., I had gotten used to seeing trash along sidewalks and roads. I wasn’t really expecting to see it when I got to Atsugi, but I was surprised to find out after a while that I didn’t see dirty plastic bags rolling across the street, or crunched up cans in the grass. My family and I marveled at the cleanliness during our whole stay in the country.
When I returned, I shared that discovery with a coworker (whose wife happens to be from Japan). He asked, “Ah, right. That surprised me, too, when I was there. I’m sure that you saw all of the drink vending machines, but did you see any food vending machines?”
I thought for a moment. “No, actually. I didn’t! Why not?”
“Because it’s a bit of a taboo to walk around and eat at the same time. It’s seen as a bit undignified, or something a lower class might do. People make sure to take their food somewhere where they can sit down and eat it instead. It’s a cultural thing. In the U.S. it’s not a taboo or anything, so we have food vending machines in most places.” So that explains the difference a bit. It also explained why, when I once chose to walk around a mall while eating a rice ball, I noticed a few furrowed brows and caught some quickly averted stares. I didn’t think about it until I found out about the food taboo information. It’s interesting, though! I wish that our streets were as trash-less as Japan’s.
The featured picture of this post is actually from a vending machine I found there, which was mostly full of “American Coffee.” The front of the can features some stars, stripes, and a motorcycle (‘Murica). You could purchase it from the machine either hot or cold, for the same price. And it was DELICIOUS. These types of machines were, indeed, everywhere. I also wouldn’t mind having those here.