I think I’ve mentioned before the ubiquity of vending machines in this country. After dark, many are the solitary machines casting their neon glow as they stand in mute servitude to shift workers, motor scooter gangs, and petty criminals who ply their trade in a fitfully slumbering city.
I knew she was trouble from the moment her feet, clad only in black fishnets and red pumps—the kind you see in Kokura on a Saturday afternoon—appeared in my doorway and hijacked my post. A group of vending machines installed together and operated by the same company or individual are usually called a vending corner.
One night I had hiked up to the top of Mount Sarakura—at a peak height of about 650m it’s the tallest mountain in the city—and on my way back I passed by the most memorable vending corner yet. The prices were half- to three-quarters of what you’d pay at a regular vending machine—75 yen for a can of hot coffee, 60 yen for an ume (Japanese plum) drink—and the selection was decidedly eclectic. Instead of the usual advertising inserts, each machine had photocopies of news articles and in some cases handwritten documents, which I had no hope of deciphering. They had a somewhat oracular look to them, and I’d like to think they were some sort of prophecy.
I can’t read the left-most character, but the rest reads roughly as yasu—cheap, sekai ichi—number one in the world. In the online dictionary I consulted, the first character appears in compound words that mean stuff like fierce, surprising, vehement, military onslaught, and other such extreme feelings. So “extremely cheap—the cheapest in the world” is a safe guess but “surprise vending attack: unstoppably cheap” is probably closer to the real meaning.
The retro car just adds to the hard-boiled ambiance. And what is that young couple really up to?