Nadamen Green Tea

Brand: Asahi

Cost: 160

Found At: Vending Machine

Every now and then in Japan, you run across a right-wing nationalist party. They are extremely hard to miss, standing outside the train station and yelling into a megaphone, or driving through the city blasting patriotic music out of their back and gold vans. Their messages vary, but never in volume. Sometimes they are railing against Korean immigrants, sometimes they are claiming that Japanese war crimes have been exaggerated, sometimes they are shrieking about the debated Senkaku islands. Sometimes, they just drive around in their propaganda buses playing patriotic music. One such bus passed us recently on a narrow mountain highway blaring shamisen music at full volume to the empty mountainside. They even occasionally give me pamphlets, which is thoughtful of them as I am exactly the kind of western imperialist influence they would prefer to oust.

I don’t usually give them much thought, but I am always reminded of them when I pass a vending machine selling Nadamen Japanese tea. Of course, Asahi has nothing to do with fascism. At least as far as I know. But there is something in the graceful bottle and the Hokusai wave that reminds me of these Japanese nationalists. It’s something in the organization of characteristically “Japanese” images that reminds me of the vans covered in flags. I can just imagine them drinking this mild green tea in a beige basement, as they discuss the ills that have befallen their country. But just like the nationalists, this tea is all in the packaging. Hokusai painting or no, the tea itself is weak and unremarkable, overpriced and misleadingly bottled to give you less than you bargained for. Its a hopeful kind of metaphor – behind their trucks and placards and handouts, there’s nothing there besides weak green tea.

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