My Greatest Challenge Yet: Quitting Soda In Japan
November 3, 2009
One of the strangest memories I have from college is the afternoon my friends held an intervention for me. It was at a late lunch at the Sbarro in the student center. For some reason, this would be the day a few of my friends decided they had to do something about my apparently destructive Diet Coke drinking. I initially thought it was a joke, but it quickly became clear they were not, in fact, pulling one over me. Keep in mind this was during sophomore year of school, when everyone’s basically a functioning alcoholic. Yet my (admittedly) unhealthy consumption of diet soda warranted an after-school special like chat.
Needless to say, my friends failed majestically as Diet Coke remained a staple of my, uh, diet for the remainder of college. And beyond.
Then, I got something in the mail that would change my life – the October 2009 “Stay Lean For Life” issue of Men’s Health. My mom sent it to me in a care package. Within the folds of this magazine with President Obama on the cover, was a tiny blurb about how bad soda is for you and how new research (!) indicated it would lead to heart disease. Somehow, of all the articles I’ve read about how horrid soda is for you and how it would kill you, this one struck a chord with me. Men’s Health has that power – this issue also made me feel terribly self-conscious about both my body and my social life. Thanks Men’s Health!
I’m now trying to quit drinking soda, and it’s much harder than I could ever imagine. I’ve never had to shake off any sort of addiction before – I don’t drink that much and the only times I’ve ever smoked are if I’m trying to impress a girl or am in the country of Italy. So I’m not sure how to drop Diet Coke out of my life. I’ve started slowly – I won’t drink soda during the week and am allowing myself one or two during the weekend. This is also ignoring the existence of Jack and Coke, which is just delicious together and gets a special pass.
Japan does not make this easy. Vending machines really do exist on every street corner…one menacing Coke machine sits a minute away from my apartment…and everyone pimps out a different type of delicious looking soda. They’ve got Pepsi Twist, for God’s sake, how do you say no to that? On my usual bike ride to work I directly pass four machines, and I’m not counting the ones on easily accessed sidestreets. Everyday is like the last temptation of Christ, for the low price of a buck twenty.
Oh yeah, speaking of money…did you know Japan loves coins? And use them for all sorts of cheap purchases? I get a lot of coins on a daily basis, and they build up on my kitchen table. I want to get rid of them badly. If only there was some sort of machine where I could trade coins for some sort of good, preferably something carbonated? Oh wait. The temptation to spend all of my Japanese coins on soda is an ever-present threat. I guess I could donate the money but……
Oh, and some soda come with prizes. Just like cereal. It’s usually a small cellphone charm like Snoopy chilling on a vegetable or some DBZ character but the “must buy Japanese things” part of me finds these knick-knacks tough to resist.
To be fair, a few facets of Japanese culture make avoiding soda a little bit easier. Mainly, that they don’t actually sell Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi here. Only Coke Zero and Pepsi Nex which don’t taste nearly as good as their straight-up diet counterparts (yes, I really like the taste of diet drinks). And recycling here’s a total pain – you have to cut all the labels off the bottles and then sort them separate from all other plastic things. Helping the planets a really drag.
OK, take bets on how long until I break and go back to my seven bottles a day habit.
(Japanese Fun Fact #28: The smoking car on the trains here are as close to a literal hell as you can get in Japan.)