For Love of the Japanese Vending Machine

During my research trip to Japan last summer, I fell in love with vending machines. No matter where you go in Japan, you’re likely to find an assortment of large, well-lit machines selling everything from beverages to toys…and I do mean everything. We even saw one selling ladies’ underwear. On a public street. (And NOT in a questionable district.)  It’s difficult to walk a block in Japan without passing a vending machine–or two, since they usually seem to appear in pairs–and every train or subway station platform has at least one set. The drink selection in vending machines depends on the company that owns and

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Hanging Out With the Noren

Noren are traditional Japanese doorway hangings. Most noren are made of fabric panels, with a slit cut up the center to permit passage through the door. Japanese businesses traditionally hang a noren in the entrance during business hours. The presence of the noren indicates the shop is open for business. The lack of a noren in the doorway means the shop is closed. During the medieval period, many noren were made from indigo-colored cloth. White characters on the noren announced the shop’s name and, sometimes, the type of business conducted.  Commercial houses often had a shop name ending in -ya (meaning “house

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