It’s been three years since I came across a Tweet titled “Boss Coffee Drive Shot and the Mario Kart 7 Pull Back Car & Big Figure Collection.” Quite a mouthful, right? Basically, there’s coffee and toy pull back cars involved — two things I really like. And to this day, those silly plastic toys are being sold on eBay for $8 apiece. You won’t find them lining shelves in stores across the States, however; they’re exclusive only to Japan. (Based on those values, I could list my 32-piece collection for $256 — walking away with a profit of $216.)
This is a short story about my quest to find the promotional Mario Kart 7-themed pull back cars and figures, which I still have today. And no, I’m not selling them.
Boss is a popular brand of coffee in Japan, distributed in cans and plastic bottles — in hot or cold form — by Suntory. If I hadn’t been living in Japan at the time, the Tweet wouldn’t have meant anything to me. Boss was actually the first Japanese coffee beverage I had the privilege of experiencing once arriving in the Land of the Rising Sun a year prior, and I bought my first cold can of it from a vending machine right up the road from my apartment. Loved the stuff. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could buy it by the case from one of the local grocery stores. I kept my refrigerator constantly stocked. By the way, “Drive Shot” is just one of the many types Boss products. “Good Start Blend” was, and still is, one of my favorites.
Suntory and Nintendo previously launched similar campaigns for Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, but that was before my time in Japan.
Like a fresh bag of popcorn, I was out the door. I didn’t know where to go, but I had a good idea. I hoisted my empty backpack over my shoulders, grabbed my phone, lined the right pocket of my shorts with yen and away I went. From my ninth floor apartment to my mid-sized van, I recited, to myself, a strategic plan: “I’m gonna try going to this place first! If I can’t find them there, I’ll make my way to FamilyMart!” FamilyMart is a popular convenience store chain prevalent throughout Japan. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the most popular; Lawson and 7-11 are also very well known. They’re literally everywhere. A FamilyMart is equivalent to many other convenience stores, but with a few exceptions. You can’t fill up on gasoline, but you can pay your utility bills there! They also have some pretty amazing Nikuman (肉まん), soft and warm doughy buns filled with flavored meat — usually pork. But that’s an entirely different story in itself.
The first place I ended up was my local San-A grocery store. “San” in Japanese means three. “A” refers to the symbols found on the store’s logo. So, directly translated, it’s “Three A’s.” Unfortunately, San-A didn’t have what I was looking for. The next place on the agenda was, you guessed it, FamilyMart. If they didn’t have the Mario Kart 7 pull back cars and figures, then I’d be lost. FamilyMart is likely one of the largest Boss distributors in Japan. Well, at least in Okinawa, Japan.
“My plan was to wipe the store out — like a robbery, but using Japanese yen as my weapon.”
As soon as I walked in, I made my way to the coffee cooler — with a huge, confident smile on my face. The cooler was located in the back, at the far end of the store. If I was blind, I could have easily found it; I performed this exact routine countless times for the dozen or so FamilyMarts located within the five-mile radius of my apartment. I was on a mission, and I wasn’t just going to buy one of these fancy limited-time Boss promos. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for cute Nintendo toys, too. My plan was to wipe the store out — like a robbery, but using Japanese yen as my weapon. With squinting eyes, I wrapped my greedy little digits around the crisp cooler handle — from pinky to index finger — and peered through the fogged-over glass. I already felt a weird sense of accomplishment, as if I had already completed some daunting task before I even started. The cooler door cracked open. And just like that, my eyes met with Wario’s. We were both frozen, like two duelers about to draw six-shooters in a Western movie. Alas, I had found the Holy Grail of Mario Kart 7 Boss coffee stashes. There were rows and rows of it — reaching all the way to the back of the cooler.
I began filling my cradled arms as if collecting firewood, but soon realized that wasn’t going to cut it. I found a nearby basket and began meticulously placing the coffee cans (they came in two-packs) side by side. But I wasn’t finished yet. After clearing the supply from the cooler, I brought the goods up to the counter. The FamilyMart employee, a young women, gaped in awe. I figured she’d be laughing at me, but she wasn’t. I squeezed out a friendly laugh and a proper greeting. It was enough to trigger a laugh and a smile from her. The other employee working with her, also a young women, began to laugh and snicker as well. I politely asked if there were more in the back and she ran back to check. If there’s one thing I admire about Japanese culture, it’s their overall work ethic and diligence. Many of the workers I have encountered run (literally) while assisting customers. It’s the kind of customer service I wish most Americans would practice, but they never will. I waited patiently at the counter, thumbing through my phone for a minute or so.
“I’m making a rather large purchase, but I won’t be in Japan forever. Why should I feel guilty?”
I didn’t really expect her to return with more of these Boss promos, but it was worth a shot. And, quite honestly, I began to feel an ounce of greed creep over me. But then I justified it: “I’m making a rather large purchase, but I won’t be in Japan forever. Why should I feel guilty?” At that very moment, my feeling of greed was swept away. To my surprise, the employee returned with a cardboard case filled with more of the liquefied, caffeinated Mario Kart 7 goodness. I was in heaven. We all began laughing, while other shoppers started peaking over to see what the commotion was about. It was hilarious, and I felt better. (I still wonder if the two girls were really laughing at me, however.) Needless to say, I bought 32 cans of Suntory’s Mario Kart 7 Boss Drive Shot promo coffee. This really made my day. I spent the equivalent of about $40, but this was well worth it. Bags filled, I proudly made my way back home.
A clear plastic cap containing two pull back cars attaches two cans of coffee; I bought fourteen of these duos. I also bought four single cans that had a plastic top housing the single figurines; this is part of what the employee retrieved from the cooler. Each pull back car is constructed of hard plastic, and I found them to be quite durable. I enjoyed sliding the cars back, letting them go, and watching them rip aimlessly down my apartment hallway and kitchen counter. Fun stuff! The large figures require minor assembly, which makes them that much more enjoyable. Like the cars, they’re constructed of hard plastic, albeit semi-flexible, and rubber. Each figure can be fastened to a piece of plastic race track with a small plastic dowel. I didn’t score the entire lineup, but I was satisfied with my haul and never bothered to go back out for more.
Not only was I lucky enough to participate in the short-lived Boss-coffee-meets-Mario-Kart-7 promotion, but I had a refrigerator full of refreshing coffee beverages — and memories for a lifetime to come.
Boss 101: Actor Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive, Rules of Engagement) starred in nearly 20 promotional commercials — as “Alien Jones” — for assorted Suntory Boss coffee products. You can watch all of them right here.