This evening, U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Japan. While here, he’ll be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the two scheduled to discuss strengthening diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Japan, and also the possibility of Japan participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
Since we spend at least half of our time thinking with our stomachs, we can’t help but realize that Japan’s agreeing to the proposed trade agreement would likely mean lower import taxes on American beef. But while the possibility of a future with more meat has us excited, it comes with a gastronomic price, as the security measures surrounding the president’s visit mean that a number of beverage and ice cream vending machines in Tokyo have been temporarily shut down ahead of his arrival.
We noticed this on our way into the office, when we hopped off the subway at Shinjuku Sanchome Station, which is connected through blocks of underground tunnels to Shunjuku Station, the busiest transit hub in the country (not to mention the world).
With so many people passing through, it’s a sure thing some of them will be feeling thirsty and/or suffering from a snack attack. Thankfully, Japan isn’t just the land of massive crowds, but also the kingdom of vending machines, and Shinjuku Sanchome Station is packed full of automated spots where you can buy a bottle of tea, can of coffee, or cone of ice cream.
Well, usually anyway.
No, this isn’t the station master’s subtle way of telling us we need to lose a few pounds. This ice cream vending machine has been shut down as part of the anti-terrorism measure being enacted in the Tokyo area while Obama is in town.
A quick stroll around the station showed the drink vending machines had suffered a similar fate, with swaths of masking tape ensuring no one is sticking anything into them.
▼ Although we haven’t completely ruled out the possibility that the vending machines have become sentient and taken hostage, and all that tape is just to keep them from calling out for help.
▼ Some amazingly thorough work here
All of this follows the recent announcement that public coin lockers will be temporarily unavailable during the meetings between the two heads of state. Just as we’d been told, each bank of compartments was locked tight with notices explaining why plastered on the doors.
The vending machines had similar notices attached to them, letting us know that we wouldn’t be able to make use of their services until after April 25.
Even the recycling boxes next to the vending machines were sealed, making it even harder to find a place to throw away trash in downtown Tokyo.
▼ Ironically, the sticker at the top of this bin reads, “You can use it,” but it’s referring to using money charged onto your rail pass to buy drinks from the adjacent vending machine (which is, of course, out of order now).
As Tokyo’s enjoying one of its first sunny afternoons in several days, the timing is a bit of a bummer, and we noticed more than a few people trudge away in disappointment, shoulders slumping, when their dreams of grabbing some cooling ice cream were dashed. Thankfully, though, we’ve got a convenience store stocked with snacks and beverages right across the street from where we work.
So welcome, Mr. Obama. We hope you enjoy your stay, but we also hope that you know there’s probably an unusually large number of thirsty commuters in and around Tokyo today, and it’s all for you. Oh, and if you’re feeling parched yourself, fear not; we’ll have some coffee and green tea ready for when you decide to swing by the RocketNews24 office.