Wondering which Japanese drinks you should dry when you get the chance? Then you really need to read this detailed guide to all the most popular drinks in Japan!
We’ve included all the best-known Japanese drinks, from sake to matcha. You’re already familiar with some of them for sure, but others might just surprise you. From amazing drinks like ramune to slightly questionable ones like Cola-flavored soy milk, here are all the Japanese drinks you must try if you get the chance while traveling in Japan!
Green tea is already popular around the world, but the Japanese version of the tea is truly something else. They have about 20 different varieties of green tea, so a true drinker will have a great time in Japan.
Matcha and sencha are generally the most popular varieties of green tea in Japan. Matcha is a green tea powder that’s used in formal Japanese tea ceremonies. The best kind of matcha is bright green in color, and a general rule is that the lighter shades are sweeter, while the darker shades are more bitter.
Sencha is loved for its mild bitterness and delicate sweetness. It’s green tea in leaves, and one of the most popular tea varieties in the country.
Melon soda is one of the most popular soft drinks in Japan. It’s particularly popular among children, and it reminds most people in Japan of their childhood.
This is a fizzy soft drink, best known for its bright green color and sweet melon taste. The drink is so widely popular that you can find it in nearly every restaurant in Japan, as well as in most vending machines and convenience stores.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that melon soda is also the base for Japanese cream soda. This is one of the soft drinks that are extremely popular with kids – it’s pretty much just a melon soda float, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cherry on the side.
Royal milk tea is another one of the popular Japanese drinks. It’s made with either Darjeeling tea leaves or Assam and milk. Some people like to add honey or sugar to make it taste a bit sweeter, but it can also be served without any added sweeteners.
This popular drink can be found in nearly every convenience store in the country, as well as vending machines and restaurants.
However, bottled royal milk tea doesn’t taste quite as good as when you make it on your own, so it’s recommended to try it first at a restaurant or a Japanese tea house for the best experience.
Ramune is another one of the unique Japanese drinks, best known for its special design of the glass bottle. This is a carbonated soft drink based on lemonade, and it was invented by a British pharmacist in 1884 in Kobe.
This Japanese drink can be found in various countries worldwide – that’s how popular it is! It’s sold under the name ramune everywhere, so you might just be able to get your hands on it even outside Japan.
It’s worth noting that Ramune is best served cold, particularly on hot days when it makes for the perfect refreshing beverage!
Soy milk drinks are extremely popular in Japan. They’re actually the most popular plant-based drinks in the country, and they are sold in more than 50 different flavors! So, if you enjoy drinking soy milk, you’ll be able to try loads of different flavors in Japan.
The variety of soy milk flavors in Japan includes some widely available classics like vanilla, coffee, matcha, and roasted green tea, but also some rare and seasonal varieties.
Cola-flavored soy milk can be found in some stores, while springtime means that the stores are full of soy milk that’s been infused with cherry blossoms.
Other popular varieties of the drink include banana, chocolate, mango, sweet potatoes, strawberry, and about three dozen others!
Umeshu is a type of Japanese plum wine that’s made by steeping Japanese plums in liquor. It has a mostly sweet taste, as well as an alcohol content of between 10 and 15%. This is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Japan, and it’s widely available throughout the country.
The staple umeshu ingredients are fruits from the Ume family (usually plums), sugar, and Shōchū. It’s worth noting that umeshu is an easy drink to make, and it’s common for people to make it at home.
Also, there are a lot of varieties of this popular Japanese drink, usually depending on the type of fruit that it’s made with. Umeshu can also be mixed with green tea, tonic water, and it’s used to make a variety of different cocktails.
Mugicha, also known as barley tea, is another popular drink in Japan. It’s made with roasted barley grains, and it’s a staple drink in most East Asian countries. The tea has a toasty bitter flavor, and it can be served either hot or cold.
To prepare a cup of barley tea, you’ll need to roast unhulled barley grains in water. This is quite the process, so the good news is that this drink has become so popular in Japan that you find several varieties of the popular tea that require almost no preparation.
Teabags with ground barely have become the norm, and you can just put them in hot water and have a nice cup of hot barley tea in a few minutes. You can also find bottled mugicha in many convenience stores and vending machines throughout the country.
These are great if you prefer cold tea to warm tea, and they make for a great refreshing beverage in the warmer months.
Anything made from the aloe vera plant is very popular in Japan. This isn’t limited just to aloe drinks, but also skin care products and even snacks. You can even find aloe-flavored KitKats in Japan, so definitely give these a try if you’re a fan of the plant.
Aloe vera has numerous health benefits, which is one of the key reasons for its huge popularity in Japan. It’s beneficial for your skin, oral, digestive, and dental health, so it’s no surprise that the plant is so widely used throughout the country.
But it’s not popular only in Japan. Funnily enough, most of the aloe vera drinks in Japan are sold in various Korean stores and at Korean markets!
Aloe Vera King is the market leader when it comes to aloe vera juices, and the company was first established in South Korea back in the early 1990s.
Amazake is a very popular drink in Japan. It’s a sweet drink with low alcohol content, and it is made from fermented rice. The drink originates from the Kofun period in Japan, so it’s one of the oldest Japanese drinks that are worth trying.
There are quite a few different recipes for this popular drink, but most of them call for combining kōji with whole grain rice. This creates enzymes that are capable of breaking down the carbohydrates into simple sugars, and the longer this mixture is left to incubate the sweeter the amazake tastes.
Another popular recipe just calls for mixing sake kasu with water and adding some sugar. Additionally, it’s worth noting that this drink is very popular in other Asian countries as well.
Gamju is the Korean counterpart of the drink, and even the Chinese have their own equivalent of Amazake, Jiuniang.
Japanese sake is one of the most famous alcoholic beverages. It’s the national beverage of Japan, and serving it is an entire ceremony in Japan.
It’s become increasingly popular all over the world, and it can be found in the majority of self-respecting sushi restaurants on the planet. However, it’s worth noting that true Japanese sake differs quite a bit from the European version.
True sake is an alcoholic beverage that’s made with fermented rice that’s been polished enough that all the bran is removed. Similar to beer, sake is brewed so that the starch converts into sugar that then ferments into alcohol.
The beverage that’s known as sake in English is called Nihonshu in Japan. On the other hand, the Japanese character for sake can refer to pretty much any alcoholic beverage.
You read that right – canned coffee is one of the seriously popular Japanese drinks, and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It’s pre-brewed coffee packaged in a can, and it’s ready to drink as soon as you open the can.
Canned coffee can be found in most vending machines in Japan, as well as supermarkets and convenience stores. Most canned coffee is cold, which is great for warmer months. Pour it in a glass over ice, add a little bit of coffee-flavored soy milk, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice iced coffee!
It’s worth noting that it is also possible to buy warm canned coffee, but only in the autumn and winter. Vending machines offer heated cans in the colder months, and convenience stores and supermarkets will keep the cans of coffee in their heated racks.
Additionally, depending on the exact kind of coffee you get, you might need to give it a quick shake before you drink it. This is recommended with most flavored and milk-based coffees since some ingredients can separate if the can’s been sitting on the shelf for a while.
Shochu is a distilled beverage that’s very popular in Japan. It’s usually distilled from rice, sweet potatoes, barley, buckwheat, or brown sugar. But those aren’t the only ingredients that can be used to make this popular drink – sesame seeds, chestnuts, carrots, and potatoes can also be used to make shochu.
This popular alcoholic drink contains around 25% alcohol volume, so it’s much weaker than whiskey and vodka. However, it’s also possible to find multiply-distilled shochu, which has a much higher alcohol content of 35%.
This process usually entails using two batches of sake and distilling them twice, to create a very strong liquor. Shochu is often used as a base for Japanese cocktails, liqueurs, and other alcoholic drinks such as umeshu and chūhai.
Pocari Sweat is a popular sports drink in Japan. It was created by Osaka Pharmaceutical in 1980, and since then it has become widely popular across most countries in Asia and the Middle East. The drink can even be found in other corners of the world such as Australia and Mexico, so you should be able to get your hands on it even if you never travel to Japan.
This is a non-carbonated beverage with a mildly sweet flavor that’s popularly consumed after workouts. The non-alcoholic drink is high in electrolytes and nutrients – all the good ingredients that are lost when you sweat, hence the name.
It’s worth noting that Pocari Sweat was the first domestically produced drink in Japan that managed to ship more than $1 billion of product overseas. It’s extremely popular in several Asian markets, and today, there are countless variates of similar post-workout drinks in pretty much all the other markets as well.
Yakult is probiotic milk that’s extremely popular in Japan. It contains skimmed milk, water, sucrose, glucose-fructose syrup, and the star ingredient – live bacteria ( L. paracasei). It’s a bit off-putting at first, but it functions just like all other probiotic drinks and pills, and it’s incredibly good for you.
The popular probiotic drink is made by combining glucose and skimmed milk, and then heating that mixture to 90-95°C for about half an hour. After it cools down to 45°C, the live bacteria are added, and the mixture is left to incubate for about a week at 38°C. When the fermentation is completed, the rest of the ingredients are mixed in.
This healthy drink is sold in most Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores, and it’s even served as part of school lunches in a lot of Japanese schools. In some countries in Asia and Latin America, Yakult is sold door-to-door, usually by women that have come to known as “Yakult Lady”.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.