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In many respects, Japan is far ahead of the US. Of course Japan gets all its own, best technology first. New game machines, computer models, audio innvations, are released months ahead of the US market.

But Japan's ahead in other ways, too. It is the only country I know where you can buy and consume alcohol on the street. Vending machines sell beer in sizes ranging from petite 250 ml cans to whopping huge two liter, aluminum jugs that sport handles for pouring. Some vending machines offer sake, whiskey & even wine (albeit rather awful wine).

And in Japan, should you find yourself blotto from overconsumption of liquor, which for the Japanese can mean just a couple of beers since there's a genetic intolerance for alcohol here, friends will make sure you head safely in the direction of home. If you've been on a lonely binge, a friendly policeman will help you off the curb and into a cab home. He doesn't write a citation, deliver a homily on temperance, or behave angrily. He just scoops and delivers.

"To serve and protect" takes on a whole new meaning here...

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