You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

You can get coffee just about anywhere in Japan thanks to the millions (yes, millions) of vending machines littered around the country.  ”How convenient,” you must be thinking.  Yeah, if you like drinking awful coffee.

I’ve seen vending machines with two of the four rows dedicated to coffee in a can, but none of them are very good.  Many of the ones that aren’t flavored with milk and sugar taste bitter and metallic.

^ Canned coffee in a vending machine. So convenient…so gross!
In the summer, the vending machine chills the coffee and in the winter it warms it up…so cool!

You can also purchase coffee in cute little faux-paper coffee cups at the convenience store.  Just stick a straw in the top and you’re on your way to “enjoying” a nice iced coffee beverage.  That sounds great, except in reality, these drinks are only vaguely reminiscent of coffee and, frankly, suck.

^Coffee at the convenience store. Clever packaging but still no delicious coffee taste.

If I need an afternoon pick-me-up while I’m at work, my only option is of the freeze dried, instant variety.  Japan has perfected many things, but instant coffee is not one of them.

Starbucks, with its sickeningly sweet mochas America has come to know and…tolerate, is actually pretty good in Japan. Adapting to Japanese tastes, Starbucks Japan has toned down its use of sugar and syrups and churns out beverages that actually taste like coffee instead of a liquefied candy bar.  The whipped cream isn’t even sweetened, but the caramel frappucinos still come topped with caramel syrup.

^Starbucks Japan: Same logo, better coffee.

My husband Khoa and I visit a little coffee shop in Matsue, the capital of our prefecture, whenever we get a chance to get off of our island.  They brew a mean cup of joe, but you have to pay 450 yen ($5.73) for a tea cup of black coffee. Yikes!  In the summer, we discovered a whole menu of fun cold drinks.  Take a look at my coffee float.  It’s just iced black coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream floating on top.  It definitely takes the edge off of the summer heat.

Even in Chibu (current pop. 598), there are a handful of vending machines offering canned coffee 24/7.  The general store shelves are lined with three varieties of instant coffee, but no coffee beans or fresh brewed coffee in sight.  We have to cross an ocean for that.  Coffee, coffee everywhere but not a drop to drink (that’s any decent).

Michelle is originally from California, but  currently living in the tiny fishing village of Chibu, one of the Oki islands in Japan.  Being one of two foreigners living in an island village of a little over 600 people presents many adventures.  Come back every Saturday for a new article featuring the interesting and bizarre things she comes across in her life in rural Japan.  Once a week not enough?  Check out her blog, You, Me, And A Tanuki, for photographs and even more articles.

We’re still looking for more unique and interesting stories from Asia to share with the world, so drop us a line if you’d like to have your own blog featured on RocketNews24.