November 24

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Yakitori in a Can

If you can’t be bothered to boil water and make your own Cup Noodles, this vending machine’s for you. On offer are curry udon (thick white noodles smothered in curry gravy), all manner of ramen (thin crinkly noodles in pork soup flavored with soy sauce or miso), zōsui (rice gruel with vegetables), chicken yakitori (grilled chicken with Japanese BBQ sauce), and of course, that perennial favorite, white cream corn soup.

I found this vending machine in Akihabara, the neighborhood that appeals to the segment of the population that in America might spoon out cold baked beans on toast and call it breakfast. I figured it kind of made sense that young men without any interest in cooking might want to grab some sustenance on their way to the model shop, but a few burning questions continue to nag: Are you supposed to down the noodles and chicken chunks straight from the can, without benefit of chopsticks? And why are these delicacies being offered in both hot and cold versions?

If you’d like to visit the Akihabara area the next time you’re in Tokyo, maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

The #1 hostboy at Club Nova makes a handsome living, whispering sweet nothings in the ears of women who pay him a fortune for the privilege. But the party’s over when Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura is assigned to investigate the death of one of Hoshi’s customers…read more