If you’re after a wide variety of unique beverages, look no further than Japan. This island nation has long been known for all sorts of Japanese drinks from sake to cans of coffee. After several trips to Japan, we’ve put together our list of must try drinks to experience in Japan. Kanpai!
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What do Japanese Drink?
Japanese drinks are usually one of two things – either ancient and steeped in history, or highly innovative at the forefront of consumer technology. From sake to flavored soy milk, everything you could possibly want or need to drink can be found in Japan. You’ll even find a Japanese drink vending machine at the top of Mount Fuji!
Japan is also known for its wide variety of drink flavors. At times it seems like no flavor is off-limits. For many Western travelers, flavors like matcha, lychee, and soy may take some getting used to. When traveling in Japan, the best place to start sampling these unique flavors is at a convenience store. Called ‘conbini’, these stores are on nearly every corner. 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and our personal favorite, Lawson are the largest brands in Japan.
11 Japanese Drinks to Try In Japan
Japan is home to some of the most unique and most delicious beverages in the world. It can be tough to know just where to start when sampling the local drinks in Japan. Here is our list of 11 of the best Japanese drinks to try during your trip to Japan.
Probably the most well-known beverage on this list. Sake is considered to be the national drink of Japan. This Japanese alcoholic beverage is created from fermented rice. It has been enjoyed by the Japanese for over a thousand years.
There are over 1500 sake breweries spread across Japan. The favorite drink of Japan changes tastes depending on the rice, rainfall, and fermentation process. Sake can be sour, umami, or even decadently sweet. It is often used as a dessert wine in Japan. Enjoy this classic Japanese drink with sushi, ramen noodles, fresh seafood bowls, or even chilled on its own as a reward after a long day of sightseeing.
Beer in Japan may be popular, but there is a stronger contender for the best alcoholic drink in town. Walk into a Japanese bar or izakaya, and you’ll no doubt see bottle after bottle of Japanese whiskey behind the bar. There are over 300 distilleries across Japan. Whiskey is one of the biggest beverage exports from Japan, and tourists come from worldwide just to sample some of the local goods.
If you’re not a big whiskey drinker, one of the most popular ways to enjoy this spirit in Japan is a highball. This refreshing cocktail contains whiskey, sparkling water, and is garnished with a lemon. It’s super refreshing and a personal favorite.
Here’s a fun fact for you: canned coffee was actually invented in Japan! This popular Japanese drink was created for a quick, refreshing boost of caffeine for busy city workers. Soon after its invention, it exploded around the world. Today, canned coffee is available in many different countries. Varieties include black coffee, lattes, and rich, condensed milk mochas.
If you’re walking past a vending machine in Japan, make sure to grab yourself one of these popular Japanese drinks.
Here’s a fact about this Japanese tea. Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan. It makes up over half of the country’s yearly tea harvest! This variety of green tea is fresh in both color and taste. It is the center for many traditional tea ceremonies and celebrations throughout the year. Unlike matcha, sencha does not have residual sweetness. This means that it is usually drunk freshly brewed instead of baked in cakes and other Japanese desserts.
Sencha tea is also high in antioxidants and micronutrients, which combat aging and heart disease, and many scientists attribute Japanese people’s long life spans to this miracle plant.
Matcha tea has become more popular in Western culture over the last few years. However, this rich tea in Japan has been used for thousands of years. With a delicately sweet taste often followed by a semi-bitter after taste, matcha green tea powder is usually whisked into a rich, milky froth and enjoyed warm with meals
Matcha tea isn’t just used as a drink – in Japan, you’ll find this unique green tea powder in everything from cakes, to even Kit Kat chocolate bars! If you don’t feel like drinking this traditional Japanese beverage, look for matcha candies or snacks in combini or Japanese drink vending machines
It might sound like a fantastic superhero name, but amazake is actually a traditional Japanese drink! Created using fermented rice, this sweet drink is a favorite among school children during holidays.
Amazake dates back to the Edo era. The high nutritional content of this sweet rice drink made it the ideal choice for relieving fatigue during the harvest season. Although it lost popularity during the 70s and 80s, recent information surrounding the need for dietary ‘superfoods’ has caused a massive resurgence of this unique drink in Japan. You can find amazake in bottles at Japanese grocery stores, or sold in one of the country’s thousands of vending machines. Look for stalls selling the sweet, traditional Japanese drink during New Years’ festivals.
Teas in Japan often have a rich history from thousands of years of use – royal milk tea, however, is a fairly recent introduction. Created by Lipton in 1965, this blend of Darjeeling and Assam tea leaves quickly became one of the most loved teas in Japan. Best enjoyed warm with a dash of milk, this regal Japanese drink is the perfect accompaniment to a traditional tea, or simply on its own as a caffeinated morning pick-me-up. To best enjoy your milk tea in Japan, drink with matcha cakes as part of a lush afternoon tea.
Originally introduced in Japan in the 1980s, ramune is one retro beverage that will never go out of style. The old-school bottles, sweet fruity flavors, and refreshing fizz make this Japanese drink a favorite for all ages. One of the most interesting parts about ramune is its old-fashioned opening method – instead of twisting a cap or popping a tab, you have to push a marble through a rubber stopper!
This deliciously sweet Japanese drink is popular during summer festivals, and it’s not uncommon to find stalls selling nothing but the many varieties of this tasty drink. However, it’s also typical to find in vending machines dotted around major cities and towns. Our recommendation? Try the lychee-grape flavor for a cool, sweet summer beverage!
Mugicha, or barley tea, is a traditional Japanese drink made from slow-roasted barley during spring and summer. Despite containing no tea leaves, this Japanese drink is referred to as tea due to its herbaceous, semi-bitter flavor profile and refreshing taste in warm weather.
Popular in Korea and China, this non-caffeinated Japanese drink can be enjoyed warm or cold, and has plentiful health benefits associated with cardiovascular health and longevity. Barley tea is best enjoyed in the summer, with plenty of ice and slices of fresh Japanese fruit for garnish.
Flavored Soy Milk
One interesting fact about many Asian countries is the prevalence of soybeans. Between 70-85% of Asian people have some degree of lactose intolerance, and soy has therefore become one of the most in-demand crops in Japan.
Soy milk is the preferred milk alternative for Japanese cooking, as it has a similar texture and viscosity to regular animal milk. flavored soy milk can be found in Japanese combini, as well as in vending machines and markets. With over 50 different flavors of this unique Japanese drink available, grab a bottle and taste what all the fuss is about.
If you’ve ever tried Yakult or another fermented yogurt drink, you have Japan to thank! These probiotic-rich drinks in Japan were first made popular in the 1930s after their positive effects on gut health were realized. Food scientists created sweeter, runnier formulas for easy drinking, and now drinkable yogurt is available worldwide.
Known as ‘nomu yogurt’ in Japan, these thick, tangy drinks are often used for a nutritious on-the-go breakfast, and come in a range of flavors from the standard vanilla and strawberry, through to the not-so-standard Japanese favorite of ume plum and green tea matcha.
It’s Japaneasy To Find A New Favourite Beverage From This List!
While you may not enjoy everything on this list, it cannot be said that Japanese drinks don’t have enough variety! Whatever season you visit, you’ll find intriguing flavors and unique beverages that aren’t available anywhere else in the world. From quality whiskeys to tasty grain teas, this amazing, quirky country has something for everyone – don’t just stick to water while you’re here!