While en route to Yudanaka, a wonderful thing happened.

A while before we flew out, the sage Chris Butcher posted about a delicacy he found in the vending machines of Japan. A thing of wonder and loveliness. A prize in canned form. He made me aware of the Morinaga Pancake Milkshake. A hot drink which also bore the flavours of butter and maple syrup. And lo, an obsession was born.

I checked every vending machine I saw in Tokyo for this drink. This may not seem like much to a dear and gentle reader who has not yet been to Japan, so this context I will offer. You can’t walk more than about 50 feet before you find another vending machine in Tokyo. They line the streets, my friend. Ne’er shall you feel the need for a drink and find yourself having to look far for an option. You will pass dozens, if not hundreds, over the course of a single day. And I checked every single one.

Imagine how annoyed that made Olivia after a few days.

Anyhow, our reduced time in Tokyo came to an end and we were now entering the road trip phase of the visit. Our first stop was to be Yudanaka, a holiday town favoured for its stunning bath houses (and, although I didn’t know it yet, the finest birthday celebration of my life). To get there, we first needed to head to Nagano and then get a connecting train from there. Unfortunately, the trip in its entirety was starting to take its toll – I had managed to get through the stranding in London by some miracle (particularly given that I was suffering from three days of sleep deprivation *before* arriving) – and by flying first class I magically escaped the jet lag that had kicked my ass on the first trip to Japan. But now illness was beginning to take hold and I was starting to wilt. The timing was hardly ideal as we were now leaving the anglophonically-oriented Tokyo for climes where our very foreign tongues would become a more active issue.

And then, while killing time while we waited for our connection…

… my irrational quest was met with victory!

But then we face transmutation, as the question changes from “where the maths do I find it?!” to “How does victory taste?”

Sweet, my friends. This victory is sweet.

Ignore my weirdly shaped head in this oddly-angled photo and bask upon glee! Because as we will see very soon, I was very damn sick and about to realise it…

FUN FACT: I proceeded to find the dang drink everywhere I went thereafter, and I enjoyed every single can I drank. More countries should offer hot vending machines.