Calpis Soda

Brand: Asahi

Cost: 140 yen

Found at: Vending Machine, Kamakura

For the second time in as many weeks, I have been tricked. I look into the vending machine or the convenience store shelf, and I grab the cheapest bubbly water they have. Then, when I go to take a drink, I realize that I have not read the label clearly enough. This is not bubbly water, this is Calpis sparkling soda.

There are few betrayals so poignant as when you think that you are about to get water and you get yoghurt-flavored soda. It’s a profound heartbreak, that instead of being refreshed, you must suffer though a sugary drink you never wanted. It is the penultimate first-world problems, but on a hot day, I felt even more dispirited than usual. Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice…

It did not help matters that I was touring the grounds of a Zen monastery at the time. And I will admit that this soda mishap became somewhat of a distraction as I walked between the zendos and temples and statues of Kannon. That afternoon, every teaching of Zen somehow related back to Calpis. As the monks chanted “no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind…” I was stuck on “no water, no water, no bubbly water.” As I was reading the bodhisattva vow I could not help reflecting that Calpis soda must be my “merciful avatar of Buddha” sent to free me from “sinful karma.” And as I sat beneath the shaded statue of the Buddha, I reflected on the song of Zazen. Here I was, in the midst of water, crying out in thirst.

This is the moment where I should have had a profound spiritual moment and relinquished the power of material things. But this is rather inconvenient in the middle of a vacation, so instead I bought an overpriced water at the next vending machine and left the Calpis to lead some other pilgrim into the path of wisdom.

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