Popular drinks in Japan

Japan boasts a rich culinary heritage celebrated worldwide. From sushi to ramen, Japanese cuisine captivates taste buds with its depth and subtlety. Whether you're in New York or Hong Kong, mentioning sushi or ramen is sure to spark enthusiasm among food enthusiasts!

Yet, Japanese drinks often remain unexplored territory for many visitors. Today, let's uncover some of Japan's most famous and unique beverages, perfect complements to any meal.

Popular drinks in Japan

Popular non-alcoholic Japanese Drinks 1. Green Tea Green Tea

In Japan, tradition and modernity intertwine seamlessly, even in the realm of beverages. Among the most iconic is green tea, a cornerstone of Japanese culture and heritage. Originating in China, green tea found its way to Japan in the 9th century, thanks to Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai, who planted the first seeds in Uji, near Kyoto, sparking the birth of Japanese green tea, notably Uji matcha.

Today, Japan boasts around 20 variations of green tea, with its flavor permeating various aspects of daily life, from confectionery like Kit Kats to skincare products. Yet, perhaps the most profound expression of green tea's significance lies in the traditional tea ceremony, known as chado or "the way of tea." Rooted in Zen Buddhist principles, this ceremonial practice, centered on matcha, serves as a symbolic embodiment of Japanese culture, emphasizing the reverence and appreciation for this humble beverage.

2. Royal Milk Tea Royal Milk Tea

Royal Milk Tea adds a delightful twist to Japan's tea repertoire, offering a unique and beloved beverage. Combining "English" tea, such as Assam or Darjeeling, with a generous amount of milk, this creamy concoction can be customized with milk or honey for added sweetness. Whether enjoyed piping hot or refreshingly cold, Royal Milk Tea remains a perennial favorite throughout the year, capturing the hearts of tea enthusiasts across Japan.

3. Bubble Tea Bubble Tea

Bubble tea, initially imported from Taiwan, has taken Japan by storm, especially among the younger crowd. This beloved drink features milk tea窶蚤 blend similar to Royal Milk Tea窶芭ade with black, oolong, or jasmine tea leaves, complemented by chewy tapioca balls. Typically, bubble tea is served sweetened with sugar, offering a delightful combination of flavors and textures that's sure to satisfy your taste buds.

4. Soy Milk Soy Milk

Soy milk, derived from grinding soybeans, has long been a staple alternative to dairy milk in Japan. This versatile beverage plays a vital role in Japanese cuisine, used to create delicacies like yuba (soy milk skin) and tonyu nabe (soy milk hotpot) during winter. However, in recent years, the popularity of soy milk as a standalone drink has skyrocketed. With a wide array of flavored options such as banana, sakura, and matcha, as well as limited-edition treats like pudding-flavored soy milk, there's something to tantalize every taste bud.

5. Yakult Yakult

Yakult, a globally renowned probiotic drink, traces its origins back to Dr. Minoru Shirota, a renowned Japanese scientist, who invented it in 1935. This mighty beverage, packed with good bacteria, is scientifically proven to promote a healthy stomach and boost your system's probiotic levels. In Japan, Yakult's popularity knows no bounds窶琶t comes in various flavors, is delivered door-to-door and to offices daily, and even boasts a baseball team named after it, the Yakult Swallows!

6. Aloe Drinks Aloe Drinks

Okinawa is renowned for its abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables, with aloe vera standing out as a crowd favorite. Cultivated year-round, the aloe vera plant boasts over 200 active compounds and vitamins, earning it a reputation as one of Okinawa's secrets to longevity. Today, aloe vera juice and aloe yogurt drinks have become staples in Japan, beloved for their refreshing taste and purported health benefits, and are readily accessible across the country.

7. Melon Soda Melon Soda

Melon Soda holds a special place in the hearts of young Japanese high school students. Widely enjoyed and readily available, it's a popular treat at karaoke bars and hangout spots. For an extra indulgent experience, try adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to create a delicious melon soda float.

8. Calpis Calpis

Calpis, a unique non-carbonated soft drink available in both regular and bubbly versions (Calpis Soda), boasts a distinctive taste loved by many. With its sweet and milky texture and a hint of sourness, reminiscent of Yakult, Calpis appeals to all age groups and can be found across Japan. Interestingly, Calpis draws inspiration from the ancient Mongolian drink airag, discovered by its inventor, Kaiun Mishima, during an expedition to Mongolia.

9. Pocari Sweat Pocari Sweat

Pocari Sweat comes to the rescue during Japan's scorching summers, offering a refreshing way to beat the heat and stay hydrated. Despite its peculiar name, this non-carbonated isotonic sports drink is packed with essential minerals and electrolytes, ensuring you stay replenished with vital nutrients. Available in convenience stores nationwide, Pocari Sweat is a go-to choice for athletes and sports teams looking to stay at the top of their game.

10. Ramune Ramune

Ramune is a quintessential summer delight found at every matsuri (festival) and stands out as one of the most distinctive Japanese beverages. Although originally introduced to Japan by a Scottish pharmacist during the Meiji era, Ramune has become a beloved carbonated soda available in a range of tantalizing flavors. Served in its iconic glass bottle, Ramune offers a refreshing summer indulgence that's hard to resist.

Known as "marble soda" abroad, Ramune adds an element of fun to your drink experience. To open it, simply push the marble that seals the narrow neck of the bottle, unleashing a burst of fizzy goodness. Whether you're sipping it at a festival or enjoying it at home, Ramune promises a delightful and uniquely Japanese taste adventure.

11. Amazake Amazake

Amazake stands out as one of the most distinctive drinks on this list, boasting a rich history that dates back centuries. This sweet beverage is crafted from fermented rice and can come in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. Some versions are even made using sake kasu, the leftover residue from sake brewing, imparting a delightful tangy flavor.

Whether served hot or cold, amazake offers a comforting experience that's perfect for warming up during the winter months or cooling down on hot days. It holds a special place in Japanese culture as a traditional New Year's beverage, often enjoyed at temples and shrines during hatsumode celebrations. Embrace the ancient tradition and savor the unique taste of amazake as you partake in festive gatherings or quiet moments of reflection.

12. Coffee Coffee

While Japan is often associated with green tea, it's also a haven for coffee lovers. Second only to water in global popularity, coffee is ubiquitous in Japan, available in convenience stores, vending machines, and specialty coffee shops. These boutique establishments, run by coffee enthusiasts, offer some of the world's most sought-after and rare coffee beans.

For visitors to Japan, indulging in a cup of drip coffee is a must-do experience. This preferred brewing method yields a flavorful and aromatic brew enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Whether you're exploring bustling city streets or serene countryside, discovering Japan's diverse coffee culture is an essential part of the culinary journey.

Popular alcoholic Japanese Drinks 1. Japanese Sake Japanese Sake

Japanese sake, known as nihonshu, holds a prestigious status as the quintessential Japanese alcoholic beverage. Dating back to the third century, sake is revered as the oldest traditional drink in Japan, crafted from rice, rice koji, and water. Whether enjoyed chilled during the summer months or warmed up in winter, sake offers a versatile drinking experience that captivates locals and visitors alike.

With an extensive range of varieties and regional specialties, sake aficionados are spoiled for choice. From fruity and floral to bold and robust, there's a sake to suit every palate. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of sake culture by visiting specialty sake bars, where you can savor a diverse selection and discover the nuanced flavors of this beloved Japanese libation.

2. Japanese Craft Beer Japanese Craft Beer

Japanese craft beer has undergone a remarkable surge akin to the rise of Japanese whisky in recent years. Across the country, numerous craft beer pubs have emerged, showcasing a diverse range of Japanese interpretations of classic brews like IPAs and stouts. What sets Japanese craft beer apart are its innovative flavors, including brews infused with sakura blossoms or yuzu citrus.

Exploring the world of Japanese craft beer promises a delightful journey of discovery, with each sip offering a taste of the country's rich brewing heritage and inventive spirit. Whether you're a seasoned beer enthusiast or simply curious to try something new, these unique and flavorful brews are sure to leave a lasting impression.

3. Japanese Whisky Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky made headlines in 2014 when, for the first time ever, it surpassed Scottish whisky to claim the title of the world's best. This victory marked a turning point in the whisky industry, showcasing Japan's dedication to crafting exceptional spirits. With a diverse array of local brands to choose from, Japan offers whisky enthusiasts a tantalizing selection of options to explore.

Renowned for their meticulous attention to detail, Japanese distilleries welcome visitors with guided tours and tasting experiences. Whether you're a whisky aficionado or simply curious about the craft, these tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the intricate process behind Japan's acclaimed whiskies.

4. Umeshu Umeshu

Umeshu, also known as Japanese plum wine, delights taste buds with its sweet, plum-infused flavor and golden hue. This beloved alcoholic beverage can be enjoyed neat or paired with soda water for a refreshing twist, or simply with a splash of water to enhance its complex flavors.

With its versatility and rich taste, umeshu has become a popular choice for casual gatherings and social occasions. Whether sipping it solo or experimenting with creative cocktails, umeshu offers a delightful drinking experience that appeals to a wide range of palates.

5. Shochu Shochu

Shochu, a must-have at any izakaya, is a clear alcoholic beverage distilled from ingredients like sweet potatoes, barley, or rice. With regional variations found throughout Japan, this versatile drink is a favorite choice among salarymen and women for work gatherings and parties.

Whether enjoyed straight or mixed into cocktails, shochu offers a diverse range of flavors and profiles to suit every palate. Its popularity extends beyond izakayas, making it a go-to option for socializing and unwinding after a long day.

6. Chuhai Chuhai

Chuhai, beloved by university and college students, is a refreshing blend of shochu and sweet, flavored soda. While lemon flavor reigns as the most popular variant, there's a plethora of flavors to explore, with options ranging from fruity to exotic. Found in abundance at convenience stores, chuhai takes on a more delectable form in izakaya and bars, where fresh fruit is often incorporated for an enhanced taste experience.