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Calorie Counting


One common reaction from Japanese people who visit America for the first time when they see what's inside a vending machine is pure shock at how every single item inside is full of sugar.  This is because vending machines for drinks in Japan are overwhelmingly full of various types of canned coffee and bottles of tea.  Water is also a popular item, and you can often find a fruit juice to sweeten things up, but don't count on it every time.

Don't expect any of the tea in the machines to be sweet, either.  Many people around the world enjoy green tea with honey thinking that it's a popular way to drink Japan's favorite beverage, but it's actually almost sacrilegious to sweeten green tea with honey in Japan.  You can drink it however you like in your own home of course, but there won't be any sweetened teas in your vending machine.

I was reminded by this cultural difference when I read a news article earlier this week about how Coca Cola and other big brand companies are going to start listing calories on their vending machines.  Everyone in America seems to be reacting to New York's effort to limit the amount of soda you can buy in a huge oversized cup, and this is just one more in a long line of articles about how America is facing a real challenge with obesity.

On the surface, Japan is certainly a much thinner country with much fewer people who are clinically overweight.  I think the slightly more traditional diet of most Japanese people combined with a lot more exercise and walking (thank you public transportation) may play a large role in that, but who's to say what will happen in the future.  The diet of younger generations is changing, so posting dietary information on "soda" machines may one day become a trend in Japan as well.

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