Important Importables: Finding nifty Japanese drinks

January 15, 2012 - 3:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Finding nifty Japanese drinks

January’s a great month to sit at home and relax, enjoying the various presents you received back in December and staying in out of the cold. Granted, winter this year has been pretty mild, but the sentiment is still the same. It’s a month to kick back and start planning what you want to do over the next year or recover after gathering with family and friends last month. It also would be a great time to try something new while enjoying your new games. You know, have a little adventure without leaving the house.

Japanese snacks are always a good way to experiment and try something new without worrying about the whole endeavor going too badly. Since we looked back at some Japanese candy back around Halloween, today we’ll go through some assorted Japanese, non-alcoholic drinks. All of them are relatively easy to find here, either in a local store or online, so you won’t have to

The novelty of Japanese drinks

It’s easy to develop a fascination with Japanese snacks, or even with the way said snacks are provided. Vending machine culture and unusual flavor combinations are typical in the country. It’s unique. People get to experience another culture and feel a little adventurous at the same time, without doing anything too unorthodox.

Vending machines are everywhere in Japan and you can get all kinds of drinks in a hurry, be they hot or cold. Of course there are standard soda machines and hot coffee dispensers with coffee, tea or other hot drinks. Beer machines can also be found in some areas though. Also, the hot drink dispensers are different in that some provide a warm can of coffee or perhaps even a drink like Calpis rather than just giving the buyer a paper cup filled with liquid.

The unexpected flavors are even more common though. Milk flavored drinks and usual tea combinations are everywhere. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are great examples, as both companies have special kinds sold only in Japan. Sometimes they’re even limited editions. Some of the most notable varieties include Coca-Cola Citra (Citrus flavored), Green Tea Coca-Cola Plus, Pepsi Pink (strawberry milk flavored), Pepsi Baobab and Pepsi White (yogurt flavored). Right now, Green Tea Coca-Cola Plus, Pepsi White Sapote (fruit and ginger-flavored) and Pepsi Pink are available in Japan.

Now, finding these Japanese drinks is surprisingly easy in most cases. If there’s an Asian or ethnic grocery store in your neighborhood, odds are you’ll find one or two varieties of Japanese colas, coffees or drinks there. Amazon also carries quite a few as well, or has other vendors selling them there. Or, you can always turn to specialized websites like Asian Snack Time or JBox, which focus on importing snacks from Japan. If you want an unusual Pepsi or Coke variety, you’ll probably have to import, as they rarely appear in stores outside of the country. napaJapan is a good store for picking up the assorted Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinks, and even occasionally carries old varieties for those rare people who collect Pepsi and Coke products.

Drink up!

So, after reading all about how it’s cool to get some foreign drink, possibly in an awesome can featuring iconic characters or unusual designs, you probably want to get one for yourself. Don’t worry, they really aren’t that hard to find. This is especially true if you have an Asian grocery store near your home. Keep an eye out for the following drinks.

Calpis (Calpico)
Price: ~$2 per can, ~5 per bottle
Flavor: Avoid this if you can’t handle dairy, as Calpis, known as Calpico outside Japan, is a drink made of water, dry milk and lactic acid. Depending on the variety you can get Calpis Water or Calpis Soda, with the water version being the standard variety and the soda version being carbonated. There are fruit flavor varieties and people have been known to mix it with liquor to make cocktails. It’s considered a health drink.
Best Served: Cold. Only cold. I can’t imagine drinking it warm. Though, surprisingly, some Japanese vending machines sell Hot Calpis. I shudder at the thought.

Mitsuya Cider
Price: ~$2 per bottle
Flavor: Pretend the “cider” part of Mitsuya Cider isn’t even there. It doesn’t matter. This is just a plain old soft drink, with the original flavor being similar to 7Up or Sprite. It’s supposed to be fizzy and refreshing, and it is. There are also varieties that add in hints of fruit flavor, like lemon or orange. Actually, as good as the drink is, the Mitsuya Cider hard candies are actually better because they not only have the same flavor, they also have the same fizzy feeling when you eat them.
Best Served: Cold

Pocari Sweat
Price: ~$3 per bottle
Flavor: Think of Pocari Sweat as being similar to Gatorade. It’s a non-carbonated sports drink designed to rehydrate people and boost energy with sugar and electrolytes. As far as taste, it’s rather bland and mildly fruity. Unlike health drinks we’re familiar with, Pocari Sweat is only available in a grapefruit variety.
Best Served: Cold

Price: ~$2 per bottle
Flavor: Ramune is just a carbonated soft drink. The taste isn’t all that phenomenal, no matter which variety you get. (The standard flavor is lemon-lime, but there are various fruit and cola flavored Ramune as well.) It’s good, but the real appeal comes from the bottle. It’s a Codd-neck bottle with a marble keeping the drink fresh and sealed. It’s held in place with pressure and you have to use a little piece of plastic, included on the top of the bottle, to push the marble into the bottle so you can drink. You even have to drink it in just the right way so the marble doesn’t slip back into place. It’s more about novelty than taste.
Best Served: Cold

UCC Milk Coffee
Price: ~$2 per can, $18 if you get the can and Evangelion figure set.
Flavor: The product description actually does a pretty good job of describing the UCC Milk Coffee taste. It’s coffee that’s flavored with milk and sugar. It’s reminiscent of the kind of coffee you’d get from a vending machine or gas station, actually. Which figures, because it’s sold in vending machines in Japan. It’s particularly notable for anime fans as there have been multiple promotions with UCC and Evangelion, with either the cans featuring characters on them or coming in a pack that includes a figurine.
Best Served: Warm or cold. Remember to pour it into a glass or mug before heading it up in a microwave.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports looks at the GP2X and GP2X Wiz.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports talked about Doctor Who games.

Site [AmiAmi] Site [Play-Asia] Site [YesAsia] Site [NCSX] Site [Himeya Shop] Site [Strapya World]

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