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Doraemon unjustly trapped in a claw vending maching
Tokyo (Ueno neighborhood), Japan; Jan 27, 2005

spot me a yen?

As usual, we had rationed out the last of our cash in an attempt to run out exactly on the last day. We arrived at the airport by train, checked in, and had a small dinner. After the train and dinner, we had exactly 299 Japanese yen left (that’s about US$3). After congratulating each other on our amazing budgeting prowess, we went off in search of something that cost 299 yen.

Unlike the States, the Japanese don’t subscribe to the (ridiculous) idea that something looks a lot cheaper if you price it at 299 instead of 300. So we kept finding things for 300. Actually, to be more specific, we kept finding various ice cream options for 300, but this is probably because that’s all we (or to be fair, *I*) was looking for.

So I thought… this shouldn’t be a problem - I’ll just tell them that it’s our last 299 yen and could they please spot me the yen for the ice cream cone that usually costs 300? I’m not too proud to relate that we’ve done this sort of thing in a few airports around the world when we’ve been short by a coin or two and it usually works – in fact, I can’t think of a time when it didn’t work. Until now. After three valiant attempts with three different vendors, I admitted defeat. It’s not that the Japanese are mean; on the contrary, they’re quite friendly. But they *are* a very rule-adhering culture. I finally realized that I was embarrassing them by asking for the extra yen – it was bad of me to put them in that position.

Dejected (and feeling somewhat guilty), I bought the smallest, saddest one-gulp-ice-cream-thing I’ve ever seen for 240 yen (ok, it was about three bites I guess, but at 80 cents/bite, I wasn’t a happy camper). Susan then spent the next 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the last 59 yen. I think she eventually bought a tic-tac.

What I would have given for one of those give-a-yen-take-a-yen trays…

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


Give-a-yen-take-a-yen trays certainly exit in Japan. For example most of the Don Quijote stores have a tray next to the payment 'tray' from which you can takeup to 4 yen.

--Anonymous; Apr 2, 2006