Cost: 160 yen
Found at: Acrue Vending Machine, Tokyo Station
I am still amazed when apple juice tastes like apple juice. It is one of those things that as an American, you take for granted. You assume that the juice from apples and apple juice are two completely different flavors. But one of my first memories of Japan is the sheer delight in discovering that the apple juice here is the same as apple cider in the US. And it is that much more amazing for me to find it in a vending machine in a train station, and not at a specialty raw-foods market in Capitol Hill.
When I was young, there was only one time that I ever got to drink 100% apple juice, and that was at the annual cider squeeze, when all my father’s coworkers would get together to press all their ugliest apples into less ugly juice. It’s one of those cherished childhood memories, of freezing hands covered in sticky apple juice turning the hand-crank. The smell and taste of the deep, autumn colored liquid that poured out of the press is something that I can recall perfectly, even 20 years later. It’s the smell of autumn and family and long winter nights. It’s the disappearing comradery of a community activity – chopping apples and filling pint containers and carting away buckets of apple pulp to the compost heap.
But here in Japan, I don’t have to wait for the leaves to change. I don’t have to haul the apple press out of the basement or set up long tables in the backyard. I do not even have to wait for the train! For less than 2 dollars, I can grab a small bottle of real Fuji apple juice from Nagano prefecture, and enjoy that quintessential taste of fall without the finger-numbing effort of cutting apples and turning cranks. It’s not nearly as sentimental, but boy is it convenient!