Repent Alien Jones!
Comiket is this weekend, I haven’t done up my review of the Spring 2015 mini-international-comiket that I managed to attend back in March. I was looking at my pictures and they are all kind of meh! I wanted to follow the rules and was too flustered at being completely unable to function in Japanese to sign-language-annoy table folk and volunteers for permission to photograph more than a couple of them up close. Almost all the pix are sweeping wide crowd shots of folk’s backs. Boring! I barely got to talk with anyone, because I suck speaking Japanese, didn’t push my luck and demand a minder/ interpreter (I wangled a press pass) and ended up completely overwhelmed. I also overloaded myself with gear and managed to get a mild scolding for plopping myself down on the grass out in back next to the garbage bins and sneaking a smoke. Gomen! How embarrassing. (there were plenty of Japanese style pariah pits in the front of the convention halls, but I was too bagged to trudge back to them, gehh! Outlanders, can’t trust us with anything… )
The critical anthology Fandom Unbound has an interesting chapter on Comiket and it could be integrated into a post…
There are also chapters on cosplay and rotten girls, and something that is hanging un-mentioned in the Genshiken-verse that needs some poking with a stick. Nidaime OVA #4; there I said it. No yuri here, no way, nope, not in the Genshiken. Lets change the subject fast. Quick, nudge Hato into a fugue-out, whew!
But these will have to wait because…
I HAVE TO SAVE THE JAPANS !!!
Normally I would try to drop the idea onto some of the more well-known English-language blogs about life in Japan, something like the bitingly funny Japanese Rule of Seven, and hope they pick up on it but this is far too serious a matter. Comiket is upon us again, tourism to Japan is picking up, the Olympics are only a few years away and yet…
A specter is haunting Japan
…The specter of disappointing, weak canned vending machine coffee!
I’m serious! You can’t fool me, Alien Jones. Your coffee sucks! All Japanese vending machine canned coffee is piss-ant weak, tragically, disgustingly unsatisfying, homeopathic, cheap-ass, zero strength useless brown-ish dishwater water. (perhaps there are a few perc-into-a-cup style machines left somewhere in Japan, but mostly its canned coffe if you want coffee) Sometimes it smells coffee-like, but don’t let that fool you, your disappointment will only be greater. And I sooooo wanted to believe! Sure it comes in nifty heated metal cans. Sure it has coffee-looking pictures on the cans. Sure you can get a can for Y100-Y140 almost anywhere. Sure they have the world’s kewlest commercials for it: none of it matters if the coffee is weak swill.
…Where I come from, we call it Kitten Coffee
This coffee is not acceptable and must be denounced! (4)
The crying shame of it is that Japan rally really knows coffee – almost in a biblical sense. They are very, very, very good at coffee – except when they put it in a can in a vending machine. They make coffee to die for; to die, have some dribbled on your cold corpse lips and resurrect for. Coffee at their Starbucks is better than coffee at your Starbucks and Japanese Starbucks coffee is middling good on the scale of what you can get in Japan. Sure you might end up paying Y500-Y800 a cuppa, but it will be a wonderful experience. I recommend the little chocolate cakee thing too, even if it runs you another Y1000.
More on this at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Food-t-000.html (also from whence the alluring pic above came from)
On the low-end of the scale 7-Eleven is pushing out brewed coffee in a big take-out cup for Y100, and all their stores have nice clean restrooms as well. No reports yet as to whether that Y100 cuppa has any guts though!
And we need to talk guts here.
Weak coffee is the world’s number one cause of salaryman burnout, falling productivity, depression and even suicide. The reason all those Japanese companies make their employees work 12-14 hour shifts is because everyone is so burned out and zombie-fied that they are getting nothing done. And when they need a lift? Hah! Nothing but a cruel disappointment! The entire breakdown of the Japanese family, the hellish hours, the absent breadwinner, the alienation and despair can all be attributed to weak canned coffee!
Oh sure, weak coffee has its place; some folks have delicate innards or get the shakes after 10 or 12 real cups and might need to take it easy for the rest of the night. A few tormented souls may even find that coffee is not their cup of tea, but since this is Japan, we pretty well have the tea thing covered, neh? I will mention one more thing: every single co-worker or boss that I have worked with that made a fuss and insisted on weak-ass coffee in the workplace coffee-maker has turned around and stabbed me in the back. I shit you not. So it is not as if I am equating a preference for thin insipid pseudo-coffee with personal moral bankruptcy or psychopathic behavior but the coincidence leaves me cautious. Fool me once…
I blame Coke!
“”Back in the ’70s, one of Coca-Cola Japan’s regional distributors came out with one of the first canned coffees, Max, and when it tried to expand the brand, Coca-Cola in America wouldn’t subsidize it because it couldn’t understand the concept of coffee in a can. But when Max took off, the parent gave in and Georgia was born, as well as the whole canned coffee culture in Japan.
Boss, which Suntory launched in 1992, is now the second-biggest-selling line, and the company has invested a lot in trying to overtake Coca-Cola. In 2000, Boss sales were about a third of Georgia’s. Now they’re about two-thirds.”
Anyone old enough to remember American restaurant coffee from the 1970’s? It was just as miserable and weak as the Japanese canned stuff is now. Back then, unless you got lucky and found a pot of joe that had been slowly turning to tar on the truck-stop Bunn-o-matic all night (Ah! Heaven! 100-mile coffee!), a cuppa at the lunch counter would probably be a weak and foolish insult to the coffee gods, even if it came with free refills. This grievous bit of culinary malpractice must have traveled across the seas and settled in as a tradition in the Japanese market when Coke Japan started putting the joe in a can. While the Japanese are world-class at mastering whatever strikes their fancy, they are also sticklers for authenticity and tradition. Japanese vending-machine coffee perfectly recreates weak 1970’s mid-America lunch counter coffee. The very horror that brought about the 1980’s retail revolution in North American coffee consumption, launched a thousand Starbucks and infested entire inner cities with hipsters in its blowback still lives in every Japanese vending machine that dispenses canned coffee.
You can see how desperate a situation this is.
Not that I have not been warned about the futility of using an English language outlander blog to gripe about Japanese practices, and not that I don’t take Matt Thorn’s heartfelt admonitions seriously (1) but what else can I do? The country I love to visit, the country of manga, anime, yummy food and she-who-up-with-me-puts is in peril! Dare I stand quietly by?
I am not suggesting that they destroy what some might now consider a Japanese tradition. The Japanese rebuild their temples every 40 years or so and they have been drinking weak-assed canned coffee for that long, so by now weak-assed canned coffee is probably as traditional as mikos piloting giant robots. But innovation lives side by side with tradition in Japan! Red Bull and native Japanese taurine energy drinks (that 3000 stuff is freaking amazing, but it ain’t coffee) are all over the shelves of their every-8th-storefront drug stores. (Drug stores in Japan; there are probably more of them than combinis) You just need to present decent coffee in a can as something new, possibly with a nifty manga or anime tie-in to give the market a long-withheld and well-deserved caffeinated boost. Our hero Too Much Coffee Man probably won’t work for Japan. The traditional tough-guy manly man who prefers deeds rather than words is already maxed out. Boy-band members are wimpy. Wimpy we got too much of already.
A pro wrestler might be a good choice, or Murcielago, or both! Otherwise Japan is going to get desperate and start drinking the great lukewarm sticky evil: US-style Mountain Dew (2)
The Horror! The Horror!
Immediate stopgaps are possible: Alcohol free coffee liqueur in a can; Kaluha Free Zero (or would it be Zero Free?). Something built on the idea of espresso (although real espresso is strong on flavor and aroma, but curiously easy on the caffeine). Where is Starbucks when you need them? Given the “pedigree” of their name in Japan they would probably avoid rocking the boat and would make any canned coffee just as pathetically weak as everybody else’s. That’s the way things are done in Japan. You show respect for tradition.
Well screw that. Japan makes awesome coffee, in a cup. The best minds of the planet must be mobilized into cajoling the big Japanese beverage companies into sticking it into a thin little cans and putting it into their vending machines, hopefully by yesterday.
There! I’ve done my duty. Hopefully the call will spread and the forces of righteous coffee enjoyment will prevail. We can all look forward to the dawning of a new age in Japan, and then slowly, inexorably across the planet as strong, tasty canned coffee becomes as well-know a Japanese innovation as cup-o-noodles.
For Great Justice!
Holy Shit! it’s almost 6am. How the &^%$& did I manage to stay up all night on this stupid post?
(0) Grrrr! Just noticed the ad-blocker and privacy plugins are suppressing WordPress photo captions and some of the embedded videos. So now I have to put the captions in the text and hope the formatting makes sense. Oh Lord give me strength!
(1) Matt Thorn’s blog is curiously down/ and/ or looks like it has been grabbed by a troll trying to sell foreign exchange trading tips. See this Japan Times post for a precis of his argument: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/01/11/voices/need-talk-japan-english/ So I might be outlander-complaining. No way, I am trying to SAVE Japan from the scourge of fake weak coffee that is at best a misapprehension of an American mistake, at worse a furreign corporate plot!
(2) Mountain Dew is made by a special process that absorbs ambient room heat so that it is always tepid. The Canadian version is not jacked with extra caffeine.
(4) The tagline from a legendary story from around these parts. An old woman of apparent Eastern European extraction and somewhat military airs enters a hippy-ish coffee shop, sits down at a table, pulls out a thick commie book and notebook and pencil and then asks the server in a loud voice: “Is the coffee here acceptable, or must it be denounced?”
Much Later: Well, that will learn me!
Replying with a link to this post to a tweet by a famous Japan blogger and… got one of my worknyms banned from his twitter feed. I feel like… WhatdidIdo? WhatdidIdo? Jeesh, I really respect his work too. All I can figure is that it looks like he is having troll trouble and he may have mistaken me for??? Or, he really likes “mild” canned coffee of the Japanese vending machine variety and took umbrage. Or he has one that is strong andI inadvertently slandered it? Poor reporting on my part? What? I should develop a thicker skin, but i still feel weird the way it happened.
It cannot be helped.