Woo October 23, 2007 6:28 AM

This is just weird on so many levels… but it would make a great costume for carnival or some party. Except.. you should be aware that people might try to pull a coke from you, ending in getting groped in certain places g

Hmm October 23, 2007 6:44 AM

I don’t see how this could possibly work except for the most casual of glances. It just doesn’t blend in. (The shoes, for instance….)

Andrew Gumbrell October 23, 2007 6:51 AM

I suspect that, even in Japan, more people attack vending machines than attack people.

DaveH October 23, 2007 7:16 AM

Just imagine the uses to which this could be put by evildoers to infiltrate our society. Just imagine it: cars driving through the Customs post at Tijuana, but nobody notices the nondescript Pepsi machine sidling ever closer to the border…

Clive Robinson October 23, 2007 7:48 AM


How many of you have seen a vending machine walk down the road?

And if you answer “I have”, were you under the influence of anything at the time?

guvn'r October 23, 2007 8:45 AM

“These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media.”

As so often seems to happen, the public perception lags reality.

I wonder if a mathematical formula could be devised to express the time constant by which public perception lags reality, based on the media propagation rate and population uptake rate?

The Mailman October 23, 2007 8:54 AM

I believe this “invention” will actually be more efficient in helping an aggressor surprise his victims, than in helping to prevent crime from happening.

Nick Lancaster October 23, 2007 10:06 AM

Even with a spring-loaded mechanism (sort of like those round ‘sun shields’ for your windshield), you’d have to find a place to stand and time to slip the ‘camouflage’ on.

But if you’re that far ahead of your pursuer, why stop to futz with a vending machine costume?

(It’s not just the shoes – look for the vending machine that’s hyperventilating …)

Zak October 23, 2007 10:13 AM

I posted about this article on my blog.
I live in Japan, and get so annoyed at these articles that just find the weirdest people here and then report on them as though they are the norm.

No one in Japan has heard of these things, and if they did they would think they are as stupid as we do.

This is all just hack newspaper reporting, that’s all.

My take:

LRayZor October 23, 2007 10:49 AM

I was thinking it might work in reverse. Ladies of the night, hiding from the police on the roadside. Takes the idea of vending machine to a whole new level 🙂

Prohias October 23, 2007 10:55 AM

Will a gun pointed at the “vending machine” result in money flowing out of the change dispenser or a warm bottle of Mountain Dew 😛

Mike October 23, 2007 11:07 AM

@Carlo Graziani

I doubt they give change, but I’m sure they can still vend liquids And maybe solids!

Bruce Schneier Fan October 23, 2007 12:48 PM

Bruce, please don’t let us see you disguise yourself as a Japanese vending machine. It will disappoint your many fans and give them cognitive dissonance. Myself included 🙂

Anonymous October 23, 2007 1:32 PM

I’ve never been to Japan, but my initial reaction to the NYT article was that this is someone’s wacky art project. But if you believed the headline, it sounds like everyone is donning cartoon-like disguises.

Also what kind of cynical, sensationalistic tabloid editor decides to put this crap on the front page? I really thought the NYT was a better newspaper than that. I guess guess the only halfway reasonable place left to get news is The Economist.

j October 23, 2007 1:39 PM

Actually, this reminded me of the blancmanges from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Paint them up like vending machines, and the infiltration would be similar.

@Clive: “How many of you have seen a vending machine walk down the road?” Somehow I think watching the giant blancmanges was the same thing.

Kiai October 23, 2007 1:59 PM

” While Americans … even strike back, … Japanese … culture … abhors … self-assertion, even in self-defense.”

I think someday that’ll change. Japanese will come to the US to learn how to fight, studying American fighting traditions like judo, jujutsu, aikido, and karate.

Freiheit October 23, 2007 5:08 PM

“There is also a line of knife-proof high school uniforms made with the same material as Kevlar…”

The last time I checked (within a year) Kevlar in bullet-resistant vests was nearly useless against knives. Its good at stopping blunt objects (like bullets) but cutting and slicing implements still go right through it. The only benefit comes from the thick layer of kevlar.

Ron Larson October 23, 2007 10:08 PM

Oh those wacky Japanese inventions! Ya gotta love ’em for their creativity.

So here in the US we could make a device that turns you into a newspaper rack.
Or a mailbox.

The purse as a manhole cover is weird. Why not one that hides your wallet under a pile of dog poop?

Kanly October 24, 2007 6:17 AM

Funny thing: a Coke Machine? Don’t worry about someone trying to buy a can from you: Coke has been a marketing disaster in Japan. Why? It tastes like crap. You’ve been fed it from a young age so can’t tell, but in Japan green tea (hot or cold) and coffee in cans is popular. Coke have pushed and pushed and pushed but if you grew up drinking green tea, well, Coke tastes like disgusting chemically sugary water that’ll make your ass bloat like a dead squid washed up on a beach.

Arturo Quirantes October 24, 2007 9:51 AM

“I want to be able to disguise myself as a Japanese vending machine.”

What? Bruce Schneier does need no stinking disguises. He just stares into somebody’s eyes and wipes his/her memory.

TimS October 24, 2007 1:53 PM

“… He just stares into somebody’s eyes and wipes his/her memory.”

… securely, mind you. lol

I also found the idea to be “out there”, but as i continued reading the article, i found it interesting that they even develop recommendations on how to dress like, to quote: “‘pseudohoodlums’ to fend off schoolyard bullies.” This would a better representation of “camouflage” in modern world, dont you think? i wonder if they also teach behavior a nerdy kid should follow to avoid being bullied, such as looking in the eyes, not slouching, for example (i have to admit i have zero knowledge of Japanese culture, so i cannot say what behaviors define “nerdiness”)

No comments on knife-proof uniform, of course -i’d like to see somebody use it. Or at least to see one that would stand up to the claim of “knifeproof” – all it takes is one open joint, one uncovered part.

FNORD October 24, 2007 2:00 PM

@Freihart: The article says “the same material as Kevlar”, which could mean that it is another aramid, which may have better cut resistance.
Or, the author could be clueless, and means “the same material as in bullet-proof vests” which could mean a UHMWPE (eg Dyneema), which generally have better cut resistance.
Or the clothes are a scam.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.