29 unique Japanese drinks you must try!

Japan is popular for their incredible food selection, but did you know that Japan is also home to many original drinks. From soda to tea and of course alcoholic beverages, Japan has so many unique drinks. Some of them are still pretty unknown in our western countries.

Today we are going to showcase 30 of the most popular and original Japanese beverages

I organized this list in 3 sections:

Click on the links to jump directly to the desired section

 

1. Matcha Drinks

Matcha, Matcha, matcha. Japanese people love it! We all love it, no doubt about that. Matcha drinks are delicious and refreshing while being healthy for your body.

Matcha is the famous Japanese green tea, but the leaves of tea aren’t infused like most tea varieties, instead the tea makers crush the leaves until they get a Matcha powder and use this powder mixed with hot water or other liquids.

You can find Matcha drinks in many forms today like Matcha latte and even ice matcha latte.

 

2. Sakura tea

Sakura in Japanese means “cherry blossoms”. So Sakura products (including tea) is anything made with the Cherry tree flowers.

Sakura tea is popular in Japan and is consumed on many occasions like weddings and Japanese festivals.

The Cherry tree flowers can only be harvested once a year so most of the time these flowers are pickled in Ume plum vinegar to be conserved longer and be enjoyed all year round!

 

3. Japanese Kombucha Seaweed Tea

 

The Japanese Kombucha tea is not the same as what we know of Kombucha tea in the west. In Japan the Kombucha tea is not a fermented tea. This tea is made from “kelp” or seaweed powder infused in hot water.

It is quite difficult to infuse your own Kombucha tea at home, that is why you are better off buying already infused Kombucha tea commercial product.

 

4. Ofukucha

This is another classic Japanese tea. It became popular in the Heian period as it was said to be able to cure disease that was spreading in Kyoto during that time.

It is usually consumed around the New Year and Setsubun (the beginning of the Spring according to Lunar calendar)

Ofukucha is basically a cup of green tea (Sencha) with a pickled plum and seaweed in it.

 

5. Canned coffee

 Canned coffee 缶コーヒー kan kōhī is super famous in Japan! With many companies competing for the market. Like you could figure out, canned coffee is already brewed coffee in a can.

It became popular in Japan because of the convenience that canned coffee brings. Most Japanese workers don’t have a lot of time off, so this comes in handy when you need a fast boost in your day.

Canned coffee is sold everywhere across Japan, in convenience stores and also in many vending machines (that are super popular in Japan)

Next time you visit Japan and you need a fast boost from your lengthy tourist visits, grab a canned coffee!

 

6. Coca Cola clear

The Coca Cola clear is another exclusive Japanese Coca Cola taste (like the peach coke that we will cover later).

Yes that’s right, you can only purchase it in shops in Japan but don’t worry if you want to try it we have it on our online shop and we do deliver worldwide https://99japan.com/collections/drinks/products/coca-cola-clear

As the name suggests this Coca Cola is absolutely clear/transparent! It is so unusual to see this as we are so used to Dark-looking Coca Cola drinks in the west.

What does it taste like? It is similar to a Diet Coke but with a lemon touch to make up for the caramel removed.

 

7. Peach Coke

This Coke, like the clear Coca Cola is an exclusive Japanese product.

Japanese people love peaches, they even have a festival for it “Momo no sekku” or “the seasonal festival of peaches”. This Coca Cola was released on that occasion.

The bottle features a big and juicy looking peach on the packaging.

We had this coke in stock at the beginning of the year, but we are currently sold out! We will add it on our online store as soon as the Coca Cola company re-stocks them next year, stay tune!

 

8. Soy milk

soy milk

Soy milk is extremely popular in Japan, you can find many different varieties such as Sakura flavored soy milk (cherry blossom flower), matcha (green tea powder) and of course Ume (Japanese plum).

If you are looking to cut out dairy products from your life, Japanese Soy milk could be a great product for you.

Because it is so popular, it is super easy to find soy milk around Japan, mostly in convenience stores (7/11, Lawson, family mart)

Next time you go to Japan, lookout for some awesome Soy milk flavors to try!

 

9. Yakult

Yakult

Yakult is a probiotic milk beverage fermented with the bacteria strain “lactobacillus paracasei shirota” That was first isolated from the human intestine by the Japanese scientist Minoru Shirota in the 1930s and then sold by Yakult Honsha

So is it really good for you to drink ?

Yes! Because it contains 6.5 billion good bacteria that will help your guts.

 

10. Ramune

Ramune

Ramune is a soft drink sold mostly during Japanese festivals, in the summer, all over Japan. These drinks are popular because they will refresh you on a hot summer day and also because of their unique taste and bottle design.

Usually the bottle is made from glass and is closed using a marble. To open it you will need to push the marble into the bottle.

This soft drink is especially popular with children. If you want to try Ramune at home you can order it on our shop here: 99japan.com

 

11. Aojiru

Aojiru

This drink is for health-conscious people. Aojiru is a Japanese vegetable drink made from Kale or young barley grass.

Aojiru contains a lot of vitamins and minerals. If you want to improve your health this year, you might want to give it a try.

 

12. Pocari sweat

pocari

Polaris sweat is a sports drink made by Otsuka Pharmaceutical. It was first introduced in 1980 and you can now find it in many countries across Asia.

It is similar to Gaterade that we know in the west but Pocari sweat contains ions that help your body to recover lost water after sports or a hangover

I personally like the taste of it and drink it when I feel down or if I get sick.

 

13. Mitsuya Cider

Mitsuya Cider

Mitsuaya Cider is a carbonated soft drink produced by Asahi. It’s not cider as we know it in the West, this soft drink tastes more like a Sprite or ginger ale even though you can find Mitsuaya cider in several different flavor combinations.

Fun fact: Rick Astley from the famous internet meme “rickrolling” was the face of the brand during the late 1980s and early 1990.

 

14. C.C Lemon

C.C Lemon

C.C Lemon is a soft drink from Suntory. As the name suggests, it is a lemon-flavored drink. This drink contains extra vitamin C from lemons.

 

15. Black Currant Pepsi

Black Currant Pepsi

Also known as Pepsi J-cola midnight, this Pepsi is a Japanese market exclusive! (Like the Peach Coca Cola)

The J-cola line was made exclusively for the Japanese Pepsi “otaku” and the line contains the J-cola Midnight, a black currant flavored Pepsi designed to be drunk at night.

If you are a fan of Pepsi cola, you should try this take on the classic Pepsi. Buy it today on 99japan.com (https://99japan.com/collections/drinks/products/pepsi-j-cola-midnight-cassis-taste)

 

16. Lipovitan

Lipovitan

The Japanese Red Bull! Lipovitan is a Japanese energy drink manufactured by Taisha pharmaceuticals.

Usuallythey are sold in small brown bottles of 100ml. It is pretty popular across Asia.

Like Red Bull, Lipovitan’s main ingredient is taurine.

 

17. Calpis

Calpis

Calpis is an uncarbonated soft drink made from water, nonfat milk and lactic acid. It tastes a bit like a very diluted yoghurt.

There’s many flavors to choose from, and even some variations containing alcohol in some Izakayas called Calpis Sour or Calpis Chuhai.

 

18. Qoo

Qoo

Qoo is a non carbonated soft drink manufactured by the CoCa Cola Company. It’s was launch in Japan in 1999, the Coca Cola Company wanted to put a kid and teen oriented soft drink for the Japanese market.

You can now found Qoo is most asian countries and it is also available is a variety of flavors like grape and orange.

 

19. Melon soda

Melon soda

Does this sound weird for you? Melon is such a popular fruit in Japan that they made their own Melon Soda.

So what is it? It is exactly what it sounds like a carbonated green fluo drink that tries to taste like melon.

I personally don’t like this one, but hey, give it a try maybe you will like it.

 

20. Sake 

Sake

I am pretty sure you already know what Sake is, but I will explain it to you again.

Sake is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Japan! In fact, it is the Japanese national drink.

You can find it in practically all supermarkets and restaurants across Japan.

Sake is made from fermented rice which has been polished to remove the bran.

Many different types of Sake exists based on the quality of the ingredients and the level of polishing used on the rice.

If you are in the legal age to drink, you should try Sake!

 

21. Shochu

Shochu

Shochu is another alcoholic beverage from Japan, it is usually made from sweet potato (imo-Jochu), barley (mugi-Jochu) or from rice (kome-jochu)

Sochu is a distilled drink contrary to sake that is made from a fermentation process.

Sochu typically contains a stronger % of alcohol (on average between 25% to 35% )

It can be served on the rocks or as a mixer for cocktails. You can purchase it everywhere from your local supermarket to any Japanese restaurant.

 

22. Umeshu plum wine 

Umeshu plum wine

Let’s continue with alcoholic beverages items, let me introduce you to Umeshu Plum Wine.

This wine is like you guessed, made from Japanese plums « Ume » that are added in a shochu and sugar mix. Once the mixture is ready all you need to do is to wait for at least 6 months to one year to bring out all the sweet aroma from the plum.

You can drink Umeshu straight or on the rocks like any liqueur.

You can choose to make this homemade, it’s pretty straight forward or you can buy some famous brands of Umeshu like « choya » or « Takara Shuzo ».

 

23. Chuhai

Chuhai

Chuhai is a popular drink for the Japanese youngster. Easy to drink and easy to find in any convenience store, Chuhai is a canned drink.

Chuhai actually is the contraction of « Shochu - Highball » because Chuhai is made from Shochu and carbonated water.

Nowadays you can find some other variations made from vodka instead of shochu. Next time you visit Japan and you wonder what’s inside all those cans in 7/11 chances are it’s Chuhai.

Give it a try!

 

24. Amazake 

Amazake

Amazake is another very traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice.

There are several different recipes to make amazake but the most popular ones use Koji for the fermentation process.

It contains a low alcohol % so it is used in many ways, even in some popular snacks like Kit Kat —> (https://99japan.com/products/kit-kat-mini-amazake-flavor)

 

25. Momoshu 

Momoshu

We know the Japanese love their Momo! (Japanese peach). They even have a special peach Coca Cola peach flavor (https://99japan.com/collections/drinks/products/coca-cola-peach-taste).

So, of course, they will use it for an alcoholic beverage. It is usually really sweet and more caters more to younger female audiences and also contains low alcohol, around 7%.

Like the Chuhai, you can find momoshu in most convenience stores around Japan. In the US, you should be able to find it in most specialized Japanese shops or online.

 

26. Yuzushu

Yuzushu

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit, similar to a lemon or lime. It is the main ingredient to make Yuzushu the Yuzu liquor.

Yuzushu is becoming more and more popular because of its freshness and satisfying taste. Most Yuzushu doesn’t contain high levels of alcohol (around 5 to 12%) so it’s easy to drink and tastes delicious.

If you haven’t tried it before, give it a try you will be surprised.

 

27. Japanese whiskey

Japanese whiskey

If you are already a whiskey connoisseur, you might already know that Japan whiskeys are a must try.

The whiskey production in Japan started around 1870 but was only commercialized in 1924 when they opened the first distillery in Yamazaki.

Today, you can find a lot of different styles and brands of whiskey in Japan but if I had to name a few, I would argue that the most famous ones are: Suntory, Nikka, and Kirin.

 

28. Awamori 

Awamori

Another rice made alcoholic beverage! Awamori is made from a distillation process (like Shochu) of long grain indica rice. This type of rice is directly imported from Thailand.

And this is because Awamori is a derivative of the Thai drink “Lao Khao” that they discovered by trading with the Siam Kingdom.

If you plan to visit Okinawa (southern Japanese islands) and you already love Japanese sake, you should then try Awamori! You can also find it outside of Okinawa of course if you are curious.

 

29. Habushu snake wine 

Habushu snake wine

This is another local drink from Okinawa, the Habushu snake wine or more commonly called Habu Sake!

Yes, you read that correctly in the bottle containing this Sake also contains a Habu snake. Habu snakes are venomous and native to South Asia. A bite from the Habu snake leads to nausea, vomiting, hypotension and in some cases death.

This is like an upgraded version of the “Awamori” sake that we reviewed earlier but in the process, the distilleries include the Habu snake.

According to Wikipedia, there are two methods to insert the snake into the bottle :

  • They submerge the snake into the bottle full of sake and then seal the bottle thus drowning the snake
  • Or the snake is put on ice until it’s knocked out and then it is gutted out and inserted into the bottle

The Habu snake is able to mate for as long as 26 hours which causes some to believe that a drink of habushu helps sexual dysfunction in men.

Would you try it on your next trip to Okinawa? Let us know!

 

Conclusion

Hope you liked our comprehensive list of the most popular Japanese drinks! If you want to learn more about Japanese candies you can check our article about the top Japanese candies here:

Or our list of the top +50 best Japanese must try snacks!

99Japan is an online Japanese shop, get 10% off on your first order using the promo code “new99” at checkout


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