About Carmen Middleton

I was born and raised in Willmar, Minnesota. After calling Chicago, London, Colorado, and Georgia home, I now live in Japan. I am a teacher at a school on a military installation for the children of the US military and civilian employees.

My Own Kind of Love Letter

Disclaimer:  This post has not been edited by my editorial team.  This post does not deal with life in Japan.  This post has no pictures.  This post took courage to post, but I hope it makes you smile or think about all of the love you have in your life.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Maybe I’ve watched one too many episodes of “Call the Midwife”, in which Vanessa Redgrave begins and ends each episode narrating the period drama that’s topic typically deals with love in one form or another.  In any case love has been on my mind.  So here is my love letter to all of you who teach me each day what love is and can be.

Love is discovering that blood runs deep and a babies face can draw me in, can warm my heart, and make me feel a new kind of love.

Love is a friend who doesn’t just come to my rescue on a Sunday afternoon to listen and comfort, but who questions my comments and pushes me in her own subtle way to find what I mean and search for what I do not know.

Love is seeing Minnesota across a young Japanese boys chest.  Knowing he has no idea what it says, but saying it all for me.

Love is the classroom, office, or library door that is always open, ready to hear some new rant or offer an ear, an idea, a hug, or a laugh.

Love is parents who show what love, respect, and communication look like after 38 years.

Love is remembering it is all about the kids, being reminded of that, and moving forward and working past the stressors each day.

Love is a couple who clearly love each other and show love to others despite the cards dealt them in the last year and a half.

Love is a small package or card that comes in the mail.  Offering nothing but support and love from miles away.

Love is three teenage boys and their parents who I don’t have to see or talk to for months, but will take time for me.  Drive to see me and always make me feel welcome in their home.

Love is cousins and aunts and uncles who welcome me home with open arms, making me feel loved, missed, and so very special.

Love is learning to let go when it hurts the most.  Making my heart feel what my brain knows to be true.

Love is knowing that sometimes life may be difficult and painful, but the outcome from each trial will have its own rewards.

Love is sitting with myself and accepting myself, flaws in all. Finding peace with the knowledge that I may always be single, but finding hope in the insight that if “that kind of love” ever does come my way all of you have taught me what love looks like and what I deserve.

And like Redgrave narrates at the end of the second season I too feel I am at a place in my life where  “. . .I ached with love. And. . .my soul went questing.”


Pix, Nix, and Six-March


A Sunday at the Hard Rock Tokyo to see Catherine the school counselors husband’s band play.

Saw these cute guys walking to a game. You can just maybe make out the jersey. TWINS!!


I just like this silly picture taken in Shinjuku with two fabulous English teachers.


1.  Having to change my address with people and companies.  My mailing address has changed if you want it, let me know.

2.  I am really struggling to get to spring break.  It can not get here fast enough.

3.  Apparently teenagers today are not able to do anything without an earbud in one ear at all times.  They live their lives with a constant soundtrack.


1.  World Baseball Classic

Looks like the dome.

There are great signs all over this country. Just in case you were unaware that a baseball can come at you while at a baseball game.

They have hot dogs. Just different toppings.


When you enter the stadium they will pour your bottled drinks into a cup.

2.  Basket Auction

The spouses association on post held a basket auction to raise funds for scholarships.  It was a really fun evening, though I got a bit carried away.  I tried real hard to win a tour on the Navy carrier the George Washington.  No luck.  I did end up with a fabulous new piece of furniture and I will be going with a group of teachers up to Eagles Nest for a progressive dinner at the top ranking officials houses.

3.  St. Patrick’s Day

I finally made it to Harajuku for my first time.  What fun.  I also found what I think is the best bar in Tokyo.  The Lawson convenience store.  Seriously.  Buy some beer and then there are some little railings protecting the plants, sit down and watch the crowds pass by.  On this particular day there was also a parade for the Irish, really I think I should be in the parade next year.  I definitely look more Irish than many of the people in the parade.

Aren’t they the most Irish looking Japanese kids you have every seen?


4.  The third week of March brought wonderful meals.  I started Tuesday with my friend Julie.  We ate Korean at a restaurant outside the gate, but better than that we wandered around and found some news shops and food stands that I am embarrassed I had not found earlier.

Wednesday brought a car ride (it is always fun to go out the gate and ride in a car).  My friend Pat and I hit up a 100 yen shop and then went to O.M.G. Burgers which is sadly closing at the end of the month.

That’s right Minnesota–represent!

Thursday brought me back to one of the places that Julie and I found on Tuesday.  I had a walking meal of chicken skin on a stick and fried spring rolls with my friend John.  It was a small meal, though high in calories from what I just found myself typing in the above line!  It was also a great way to get a quick bite to eat after my run and catch up with a friend.

Friday brought

First, please note how cute Feonia my bike looks to the left. This is also a new find and a great place to get my veggies and fruits.


Saturday brought leftover grilling and then a brat for dinner at my co-worker Jay’s home.  Jay is from Wisconsin and well just so kind and nice because he is from the border so he is practically a Minnesotan.

And then there was Sunday.  I ended up in Tokyo at Two Rooms.  With a killer view and amazing food.  I was invited for a birthday brunch by a women I met on ski trip to Zao in February.

Yes that is water up on the deck. Up in the sky. So fancy–for a girl from Willmar.


A shared dessert. I really liked the lavender and rosemary infused ice cream.

5. I have found my second favorite time of year in Japan next to Oktoberfest season.  CHERRY BLOSSOMS!  They are amazing.  Breath taking and just smile making.  One day they just popped and there they were in front of my morning view of the mountains on my way to work.  Now I live in fear of anticipation because soon they will be gone.  They will blow off like snow from trees and it will be 12 months till I see them again.

When the cherry blossoms bloom they report it on the news, like the weather guys back home tell us about fall colors. The Japanese take blue tarps put them under the tress and hanami. Meaning they drink and eat under the trees.



6.  I have thanked my new friends many times in this blog.  Though it is always the girlfriends in my life I am thanking.  Number six this month is my guy friends.  Who consoled me on the curb outside of a Lawson more then once.  Who will jump on a train on a random Sunday to try somewhere new and who always, always make me laugh, reminding me of the Golden Rule.


Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog.  I really appreciate all the kind messages you leave for me each month.  Thanks for reading and I will keep sharing.





Pix, Nix, Six-February


Dinner at one of my favorite places with co-workers.


1.)  I miss the sun.

2.)  I don’t realize I might be a bit homesick till I get mail and break into tears.  Or realize that once again I am talking about my parents or friends back home again.


1.)  Sumo Wrestling was. . .interesting.  Remember the research that came out a year or so ago about football only being in play 11 minutes total in a game.  Sumo is about the same.  Six plus hours of Sumo and only about 6 minutes of actual wrestling.

2.)  Out of the city and into the mountains.  January was the snow monkeys.  This month it was the snow monsters.  The trees are covered with snow that has blown on them and hardened.  It was so cold and windy up at the top that I felt like a wimpy Minnesotan.  More painful than falling skiing and the bitter wind chill was the fact that I walked smack into a glass door.

3.)  Skiing.  Well I tried it.  Took a pretty bad fall the first time.  Better the second.  I just kept saying “pizza” over and over to remind myself to keep my skies like a slice of pizza.  Thank you Karen for your patience and wonderful teaching!

4.)  Karen’s Personal Princess Half Marathon.  Our librarian came on board after the school year had started and she had had plans to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with friends in February.  Karen decided to keep training and just go out one day and run 13.1.  As someone who has run 13.1 more then once, I couldn’t just let her do that with no fanfare.  So a group of us stood in the park on post and she ran past 5 times.  Each time we had signs and we yelled and wore silly little things.  It was all fun and silly.  Complete with confetti, a homemade medal, and as she broke through the pink tinsel rope, a van came up behind her with the general of all of the Army in Japan.  What can I say, I pulled out all the stops for this half marathon!

5.)  I really enjoy my kids.  They are so much fun and make me laugh.  I have a math class of all girls and we sure have fun.  We talk a bit too much and sometimes we take a break and watch Justin Beiber on Youtube.

6.)  I had the yummy sesame balls filled with a pork meat ball and delicious broth in Machida for the first time.



Pix, Nix, and Six-January




I’m getting rather annoyed with having to constantly carry two currencies.  I know, poor me.  I always seem to have yen when I need dollars and dollars when I need yen.  And don’t even get me started on the change.


1.)  We had a snow day in Japan!  The morning started rainy but by 9 it was sticky clumps falling from the sky.  Those of us who live on post headed to the bowling alley for lunch, one of the only places to stay open.  Traffic getting off post was horrible.  It took our kids on the buses an hour and a half to get across post and out the gate.  That is only about a mile.  Releasing a whole installation at one time is not a good idea.  However, four of us had a great afternoon.  We hit the shopette for beer before it closed and then hung out at my quarters.  We headed back to the bowling alley for some fun and then had my crock pot chicken for dinner.


2.)  I took my first bullet train trip.  Tokyo to Nagano.  It cost each of us $210 and it did go faster than a speeding bullet.  You can slip the seats around so the four of us could face each other and chat.  Brittnay is in the green, she teaches  English-language students.  Erika is in the pink and she teaches first grade and Julie in the black does preschool special education and 3rd grade.  All three teach at the elementary school.

3.)  I saw the famous snow monkeys of Nagano.  It was a beautiful walk to the monkeys.  They are very tame, but signs instruct visitors not to look them in the eye and do not feed them.

4.)  I stayed in my first Japanese reacon and took a dip in my first onsen.  The lack of a real bed — well, three nights is all my back can handle.

5.)  The sounds of freedom: One day on my morning walk a company of soldiers out for their morning run came up from behind doing cadence.  The ship is in and so the fighter jets are flying a lot and boy are they noisy.  Jets, planes, and helicopters, oh my!

6.)  Again and again I will bring my friends into this blog.  Life is about people and relationships and I am so blessed here in Japan.  My friends are the people who give me a hug when I walk into school overwhelmed, homesick and full of tears.  They are the ones who check in to make sure I am fine when I look otherwise.  They laugh at me and with me at every turn.  Someone is always willing to go out for drinks or dinner or a train ride somewhere, anywhere.  I have my Japan friends who help me survive on days that are tough and comfort in knowing that back home I have family and friends who love me too.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves



I write this blog to keep my mom and aunt Geri happy.  I also write this blog in anticipation of my eventual fall into forgetfulness and dementia.  So I am going to do a year in review so that one day far, far in the future (I hope far), I can look back at this and remember what a blessed year I experienced.

I attended some awesome concerts in 2012!  Lady Antebellum with Darius Rucker and Blake Shelton, who started his concert with “Footloose,” which is my favorite song of all time.  I was so happy and dancing around like a crazy person, because I was hydrating with beers after a 6 mile rain filled run.  It sure was a fun Thursday night and one of the best concert moments of all time for me!

I met Micah, my long time friend and former roommate, in Austin, Texas, for Presidents weekend.  I convinced Micah to run the Livestrong Half Marathon with me.  Who knew Austin was full of rolling hills.  We did once we headed out on the course.

Austin was the first time I used airbnb to book lodging.  We stayed in a cute little mother-in-law cottage in north Austin.  In addition to great lodging while walking out of the marathon expo, I ran into a college friend and fellow resident assistant from my days at Roosevelt University.  It was such a fun surprise to see Emily. She was kind enough to take us out for dinner and drinks after the marathon.

Enjoying the sun and the feel of a medal about our neck.


Roosevelt University alum reunite.

February also brought one of the best days I have had in my career.  I got to take my students to Airborne School at Ft. Benning.  We got to try on parachute packs, pull parachutes, and jump from the 30+ foot tour.


2012 also brought another trip with Rand and Donna.  This time we met in San Francisco and headed out to California farm country to see my Dad’s half-sister, Linda, who we had not seen in many, many years.  From there we headed to the town of Fort Bragg, Calif., to see the coast and redwoods.  We took  State Highway 1 down the coast, spending time in another airbnb with a view of the ocean and lights of San Francisco.  We ended the trip in the heart of San Francisco seeing the sights of a vibrant city.

I ran the US Half Marathon on Easter morning, which included running over and back on the Golden Gate Bridge.


May brought a wonderful weekend in Pittsburgh with my dear friend Tessa.  We explored a great little city and both had successful runs. Tessa did the full and though that had been the plan months before my right knee did not agree with that decision so I did the half marathon.


May also brought two weeks in Kenya with Project Helping Hands.  Another wonderful chance to help people in rural Kenya with medical care.  Beside 9 days of clinic we also went on a safari.


June brought time at home with family and friends.  At the time, I kept thinking why am I spending such a long time in Minnesota, but then I got the job in Japan and it was meant to be.

My dear friend Tessa and her son Owen at one of my favorite places. The lake, up north. Always relaxing, always fun. At this time we were boating across the lake to get Tessa’s parents who could not drive to the house because of the flooding from the heavy rain.

The flooding. That is the road I am standing in.

I have known these handsome boys for many years. They even came with their parents and visited me when I lived in Colorado. When home in Minnesota I spend hours watching their baseball games and playing board games and best of all their mom feeds me yummy meals!

June also brought the privilege of becoming a Godmother to Adalena Kjersten Berg. Lena is my cousin Amanda’s daughter and she is so beautiful, don’t you agree?


July brought the phone call I had been praying for for many years.  An interview and a job offer the following morning and then everything got busy.  Planning, filling out paperwork, and packing up.  And saying goodbye to good friends.

A quick trip to the Gulf Coast with my parents allowed for last minute relaxation before flying to Japan.

St. George Island, Florida.

August to December is recorded in my previous blogs.  Friends who are becoming my family in Japan, dreams coming true, new experiences, travels near and far.  Life is good, I am blessed.  Thanks for reading.  Have a wonderful 2013.



Pix, Nix, and Six – December


Dinner with our new English teacher.  He is on the far right looking at his iPhone, he had just gotten it and was in the first days addiction.

Found this inside a book in the swap section of the post library.

Learning how to make a rice ball at a local Japanese school event.


A horrible thing almost happened this month, when I thought for a time that there was no almond bark to be had in the commissary.  I had a call planned home to have my parents overnight me my chocolate almond bark because … hello?  it is not Christmas without my peanut butter balls.  So I nix that at times the ease of getting whatever I need when ever I want is a trade I made to live overseas.

Along the same line, gosh, I miss shopping.  Some of you may or may not be aware that I like to shop, just a little, here and there when there is time!  Needless to say, I am not a Japanese-size women and therefore there is just no shopping to satisfy my habit.


1.)  Baking, baking, and baking on a windy Saturday.  Sadly, we did not take one picture.  My friend Pat and I spent 7+ hours at school in the home economics room baking and dipping.  I made four batches of peanut butter Reese cup cookies, three batches of peanut butter balls, two batches of brownie bites with Rolos, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Though I have no pictures, the smiles from friends and the appreciation from Japanese people made for great memories.

2.)  My parents and I have Skyped a couple times and in a conversation this month my father was asking if Skype would work while I was in Vietnam (which it did).  My mother on the other hand says, “Oh, it’s her vacation, she doesn’t need to be calling.”  Seriously, I must have the only mother in the world who says I don’t have to call on Christmas even though I am in a distant land.

This was gift opening via Skype before I left for Vietnam.

3.)  A Japanese Christmas festival.  It was chilly.  I ate too much food, but it was fun to get in the holiday mood.

4-6.)  An amazing solo journey to Vietnam.  In a future blog, I will share my trip to Vietnam with many pictures.


Pix, Nix, and Six-November

November has brought some chilly days and fun nights!  The leaves are finally changing and fall is here.


Another shot of Yokohoma.  This was an hour before an earthquake happened out in the bay.  I was walking at the time and I didn’t even feel it.

In November the Japanese have a celebration for children that are 3, 5, and 7.  They dress up and take them to the local Shrine.  This little girl was out in Shinjuku with her parents on a very rainy day.


I nix the fact that the Japanesse seem to eat lots of starches and yet are still such little people.


1.)  I went on an overnight trip to Hatsushima Island.  It was a small island and we stayed in a permanently stationed camper.  Seafood and veggies were delivered and we cooked them outside on the grill.

The plate of seafood.  Lobster, squid, fish with the eyes still in them, and some chicken!


Cooking time!  It was a rainy night to end a rainy day.

From the top of the lighthouse.  Too cloudy to see Mt. Fuji.

Day two was sunny and beautiful.

I laid in a hammock in this tropical area and had a long chat with my Dad on the phone.

A Shrine on the island.

A man works on his fishing nets.

2.)  I set a goal for myself professionally this year to collect more data on my students performance.  Then use the data to plan my instruction.

This is one end of what was a really large bulletin board in my classroom.  That board is gone and now I have a big, beautiful smartboard!!!!  This board shows the process one student went through writing a paragraph about sharks.

3.)  I know this one is going to get some groans.  Breaking Dawn Part 2 came out.  Really I don’t think I need to say much more.  In the five years they have been coming out, I saw four of the five movies while calling a different state, or now country, home.

My friend Pat and I had a great time at the show.  It was a ladies only showing and it was a pretty vocal crowd.  Really the last time I can wear that shirt, it says “Forks Washington, Love at First Bite.”

4.) Shinjuku!  Time Square on steroids.  I went twice in November.  The first time was for the Cook Festival but it was raining, so we ate and then headed towards home.  The second time was for a day of shopping with the girls.

5.)  Random fun with friends.

We went to a dive of a restaurant, just my style and cooked our food on these paint buckets size grills with hot coals.

John and James are making some Korean candy.  It involves corn starch so I can’t handle it.  I hate the texture, feel of corn starch.

Lunch and the sunset over the Pacific on a beautiful Sunday with friends.

6.)  November brought about just how important and what a large part technology plays in my life overseas.  The internet kept me posted on a happy Wednesday when I watched numbers go up and up until finally I could breath easy as Obama won reelection.  Technology and the fabulous West Central Tribune website kept me informed that Minnesotans stayed nice and voted No to the Marriage Amendment!

Skype, text free, and Magic Jack the technology that allows me to stay in contact with all of you that are reading this blog.  After more than three months, I finally used Skype this month with my parents.  I teared up when I saw them.  I am so happy to be here but I do love and miss you all back home.  Sending hugs, kisses, love and blessings as we enter the holiday season.



Pix, Nix, and Six – October

October was filled with Oktoberfest and Homecoming.  Rainy Sundays and long work days.


I happened upon this demonstration in Tokyo.  These men were balancing these lanterns on their hands, thighs, or even foreheads.

A very cool October Japan sky.

A very large Transformer outside a Tokyo mall.

Mount Fuji

Japanese farm country.  The apples right now are the best I have ever had in my life.


Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey states in season one “What is a weekend?”  This is how I felt at times this month.  I worked three weekends this month and so like the Dowager Countess of Grantham I ended this month asking “What is a weekend?”

I nix that at times I feel like I need a car for work.  Luckily I am stubborn therefore I will not be purchasing a car any time soon.  Besides I need the car money to buy airline tickets!


1.)  I survived homecoming.  ZAHS celebrated homecoming in the middle of the month and as junior class sponsor I had many duties.  The students spent the weekend before decorating the hallways.  Competely covering them to the comic book theme.  Then each day after school we worked on the float for the parade.  All week I was also working on preparations for the semi-formal dance.  By Saturday at midnight I was done.  Exhausted and ready for sleep.

2.)  Mail.  My mail brings me happiness and tears.  The mail brings me my weekly postcards from my Dad (one was a picture of my Mom and I on the beach in swimsuits!!!  Mailed around the world, us in swimsuits!)  In addition I received the following.


The mail brought my new Frye Boots.  I have been wanting a pair for years.

This Owen original painting also arrived in the mail from my best friend Tessa’s son.

3.)  My stuff came.  On a Friday in October I stayed home and three Japanesse delivered my 1,412 pounds of “stuff”.  There on the crates was my name written in my penmanship two months earlier in Columbus, Georgia.  When the little old man in the crew opened one of my 4 foot long clothing boxes there was a shocked “Oh!” that escaped his lips.  I was rather embarrassed by the amount of clothes and accessories I had.  The picture below does not show the true size of the box.

4.) Brother has returned home to American soil.  Peter is back in Minnesota and that makes my heart very happy, if the mustache is gone I am even happier!  Though I surprised my family for his going away party that will not be happening for his homecoming. :(


5.)  Three Oktoberfests. . .really I don’t just sit around drinking beer.

                                  The geriatric Oktoberfest!

The one to many beers Oktoberfest.

The very few ExPats  Oktoberfestd.

6.)  My friends.  It is amazing how in such a short time people have become so supportive.  My redheaded co-workers are always there for me at lunch to lift me up and calm me down.  In addition while Pat (left) was at Far East (look for a blog about this topic in February) she allowed me to use her car while she was gone.  Had I not had her car, homecoming week would have been even more tiring and frustrating.  And Adele (middle) will give me a lift to work any time I ask.  There are not many redheads in the world, so I am so blessed to have found my redheaded sisters!

Pix, Nix, and Six – September

September went fast on this side of the world.



                                                           Yokohoma, Japan


Shibuya, Japan and the 6-way cross walk.


I nix the fact that I am still living out of two-and-a half suitcases.  Each day my want, need and frustration for my “stuff” grows stronger.

I nix the spiderwebs.  When I leave my apartment each morning, I head up a flight of stairs.  I have to walk with my arms flailing in front of me in order to catch the unseen spiderwebs before they hit my face.


I have a scanner and super-industrial shredder in my classroom.  This makes me smile many days.  Need an extra copy of something for a kid, scan it.  Need to send a worksheet to a co-worker, scan it.  Need to submit a bill for reimbursement, scan it.  So easy, so simple and just makes life easier.

At the beginning of the month, I ended up at an office party for one of the headquarter offices here on base.  It was a karaoke party held at the community club on post.  It is set up like a Japanese karaoke, so I am told.  One of the highlights of the night was my friend ended up doing a duet to Meat Loaf’s dashboard lights song with a very high ranking individual on post.  (She is going to kill me for putting this in here!)  I also rocked my favorite song of all time. . . Footloose!!

Yokohoma Beer Fest was four hours of drinking shot glass samples of beer.  Held in a convention center on the water, it was a great location and a hilarious time.  I would say 60 plus percent of the people there were military and expats.

I took at 12+ hour bus ride down to Iwakuni, Japan with the cross-country team.  Since it was an overnight, the cross-country coach needed a female chaperone.  The kids were so nice and friendly.  It was fun to get to know other students.  In addition, we made a stop at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Garden and Museum.  While we were there, someone defaced the Memorial in protest of the US military flying Osprey planes in Japan again.  We also saw the Osprey while in Iwakuni.  Though Iwakuni is a nice installation, I am very grateful I did not end up there.  It is very “rural,” though there are 500,000 people in the area.

The memorial.

A building that survived the bomb.

The memorial after the vandalism.


The coast.  I am a train ride away form the coast.  It is so nice to see the the Pacific and when I do I think of my family and friends on the other side of the large, vast ocean.  When at the coast for a fundraiser, I saw Mount Fuji for the first time, took my breath away.

I have never lived to this degree the motto “work hard, play hard” until I moved here.  I am working long days filled with lesson plans, meetings, and paperwork.  I am junior class sponsor, prom co-sponsor, teacher rep to PTO and chair of the special education paperwork process.  Then on the weekends, I play hard.  Hop the train and I am gone.  I’ll take this life, though at times it is exhausting and my blood pressure is up, but I’ll take it any day!  I am blessed!

The Vending Machines

Vending machines are everywhere.  There is no reason to ever be thirsty or dehydrated in Japan.  Unless of course you have no yen in your pocket to buy a much desired or needed drink.

Vending machines can be found on train platforms and outside stores.  Not so unusual, right?  They can also be found on your typical street corner or alley way.  They are hidden in corners and out in the open, they are everywhere.  Imagine a vending machine at the end of your driveway.  Or just down the street at the corner, or the corner of Willmar Avenue and 7th Street.  They are like kids playing hide-n-seek, you never know where one might pop up. 

In addition to selling bottled items, there are whole rooms at wayside rests that sell hot beverages.  One could spend months in the room and still not have tried all of the options.

In the busy and happening area of Tokyo called Shibuya, there is a vending machine that sells Japanese trinkets.  There is also supposedly a machine that sells bananas, though I was unable to find it.  Just like I am still searching for the beer vending machines.  I know they exist and the day I find one will be a good day.

So with all these vending machines, there must be a good number of people that are employed to restock them.  That would be my guess, but to this day I have yet to see one vending machine being restocked.

When purchasing from a vending machine the beverages are all different prices.  Once I start putting money in lights start illuminating below the items that I can now buy.  It is a handy way of not having to keep track of how much I have put in the machine.

When so much of the common currency we use over here is coins, it also means I always have money for that much needed water or really wanted milk, tea or someday the really needed beer.

Some of the many fruity beverages that can be purchased from a vending machine.  The black and white oval under the beverage are the light and button for purchase.

Decisions, decisions.  A Japanese man takes a moment to contemplate the big decision of what to drink.

Hot, hotter, hottest!

For when one is not thirsty.  This vending machine has origami earrings.

An entire meal can be purchased at this group of vending machines.