After compiling a list of the weirdest snacks I have ever tried in Japan, I thought there are also many unique Japanese non-alcoholic drinks in Japan you might be interested in. So I made I list of the best drinks in Japan. I have tried the below drinks all for the first time in Japan. Because I liked most of them, I really hope you will enjoy trying them as well.
I always encourage you to make your own decisions, so even if I don’t like something, that doesn’t mean you wont. So, please make a point to always try everything I introduce you to. For me trying new foods and drinks is the highlight of every destination I visit and I try to be as open minded as possible even if what I am served looks very off putting.
You can buy most of the Japanese drink I am mentioning either at supermarkets, convenience stores or vending machines, for example while you are in Tokyo (looking for an itinerary? I have a 5 days in Tokyo itinerary that is super detailed).
Let’s dive right in, shall we!
Japan is, like China, traditionally a tea drinking culture. But they had started to embrace coffee even before the second world war and in the 1960 it started to really take off. This is also the time when the first canned coffee (缶コーヒー) was produced.
The idea was to create coffee that can be enjoyed everywhere. This is true even today. You can get canned coffee everywhere in Japan either at vending machines or at supermarket and also convenience stores. The coffee, is sold either hot or cold for around 100 yen (1 US dollar). You can not only get black coffee but also sweetened coffee or café au lait in different sizes. It is one of those Japanese drinks that are nothing fancy but still one of the awesome drinks to try in Japan.
I love drinking unsweetened green tea. It is not only really healthy but also refreshing and a nice alternative to always just drinking water.
I am not really a soft drink or juice person, so while I was living in Germany I would mainly drink water. In Japan because of the different kinds of tea I have a wide variety of drinks I can choose from that are not sweet, healthy and delicious. You can not only get bottled green or oolong tea but also Jasmin or barley teas. There are stronger brewed versions and some with or without caffeine. And in winter when it gets cold they even sell warmed up green tea at your convenience store or any vending machine.
As I mentioned above, not only green tea can be found in Japan. Mugicha, barley tea is very popular as well, especially because of its health benefits. Especially girls like to drink it because it is supposed to help you lose weight.
There are many foreigners who don’t like the taste of Mugicha. Try it for yourself and decide.
Another tea that needs to be mentioned when talking about drinks from Japan is milk tea. I never really liked the Japanese version of milk tea, having fallen in love with super sweet milk tea from Bangladesh or India Japanese milk tea just feels way too boring for me.
Still, it is something very typical in Japan and can be found in every convenience store or supermarket.
The Japanese drink Calpis (カルピス) also called Calpicois an uncarbonated soft drink made from water, nonfat milk and lactic acid.
It tastes a bit like very diluted yogurt, and while I like yogurt and even Japanese drink yogurt (see below) I can’t stand the flavor of Calpis.
You can not only get it in it’s normal version, but also as a carbonated drink called Calpis Soda. Japanese drink Calpico even with alcohol in Izakayas (Japanese bars) called Calpis Sour or Calpis Chuhai.
Now you are going to tell me “Fanta? But we also have Fanta in our country. There is nothing special about Fanta.” But hold up. The Fanta in Japan comes in the strangest flavors. For me, it is a lot of fun trying these different new Fanta flavors. So far, I have seen Mango, Peach, Melon, Lime, Strawberry and of course Grape.
As Japanese soda goes, Fanta is one of the best you can try. For my taste, they are all way too sweet as most soft drinks are but if you love Fanta it is a lot of fun to try all the different flavors you can find here in Japan.
Melon soda is a bright green Japanese beverage that tastes nothing like melon. It does however taste like a bubbly super-sweet fizzy drink that could only be created in Japan. It is probably one of the best Japanese soft drinks.
For my taste it is way way way too sweet, and it really is very popular with children because what straight thinking adult would drink something as crazy as a bright green fizzy drink? The answer is: Japanese adults, apparently.
Why do people drink aloe drinks? Benefits range from better skin and a healthier liver to hydration and better constipation. But when we were told aloe drinks are healthy they didn’t really mean the kind of aloe drinks you get in Japan.
Here the aloe drinks are mixed with other juice and with lots and lots of added sugar. I feel like the aloe vera was only added for its texture, as it adds a jelly like quality to the drinks.
I actually dedicated a complete post to the Japanese clear sodas. Because at some point clear colored drinks in Japan were so popular you could find all kinds of Japanese beverages turned into clear versions. Such as coffee and yogurt drinks and of course Japanese soft drinks.
Acerola is a type of cherry and acerola soda tastes exactly like you would cherry soda to taste like. It’s delicious!
If you were wondering what the name of the Japanese drink with marble is, that’s Ramune (ラムネ). Ramune is a soft drink sold at festivals during summer all over Japan.
It is popular not only because of it’s refreshing taste but also because of the unique design of the bottle. The glass bottle is closed using a marble, to open it the marble is bushed into the bottle where it will rattle around while you drink it. Ramune is especially popular with children but also many older Japanese because of the nostalgia Ramune manages to evoke.
If you want to try Ramune at home you can even buy it on amazon.com. But it is best to try it in the atmosphere of a Japanese summer festival.
By the way, many people ask ‘Does Ramune have alcohol?’ and the answer is ‘No’. It’s a drink for children. It’s just soda, Ramune is not alcoholic.
I wouldn’t have called Oshiruko (お汁粉 ), red Azuki bean soup, a drink but it is sold canned in winter at vending machines and convenience stores, so for the purpose of this list, it is a unique Japanese non-alcoholic drink. The red bean soup is thick, warm, sweet and really delicious (if you like the red Azuki beans).
If you want to get a real (meaning not canned) version of Oshiruko or Zenzai (ぜんざい), which is basically the same thing just with a thicker consistency, you will have to visit a Japanese sweets shop. There the red bean soup will have a thick Yakimochi floating in the soup which makes it even more delicious.
Azuki beans are used in a lot of other Japanese sweats such as Dorayaki (two pancakes filled with red bean paste), Daifuku (mochi filled with red bean paste), or Taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with red bean paste). I recommend you try all of these because they are all delicious.
While soy milk is becoming more and more popular all over the world with people who are health conscious or as a milk alternative for vegans or lactose intolerant people, Tonyu (豆乳) has been a popular Japanese drink for a long time.
Soy milk is produces by grinding soybeans in water. You can get this Japanese non-alcoholic drink not only in it’s natural flavor but with a wide variety of added flavors such as chocolate, banana, matcha, coffee or tea, and seasonal flavors such as Sakura or Ume (plum). The soy milk in Japan is most commonly sold in small 250 ml drink packs but you can also get it in 1 liter cartons like cow milk.
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My first experience with drink yogurt (飲むヨグルト) in Japan wasn’t a very good one. I bought something I assumed was 1 liter of milk. After I poured it over my cerial and took the first bite I almost gaged. That wasn’t because drink yogurt tastes bad, it doesn’t, I was just expecting a completely different flavor from the sour yogurt flavor I tasted.
After the first shock I have grown to love drink yogurt, one of the really weird Japanese drinks. But I don’t recommend pouring it over your cerial. Just drink it as it is and you will have a nice refreshing drink. The most common flavor is plain and this is also the one I enjoy most, but you will be able to find others such as strawberry or banana as well.
Yakult is a probiotic drink that has been sold since the 1930s. I never knew Yakult was originally from Japan, because it was sold in German supermarkets since as long as I can remember and it is very popular there as well.
Yakult is sold in tiny containers and it is recommended to drink one every day to help create a healthy gut flora and to support regular bowel movements. This is according to a study done by a Nutrition Center in the Netherlands. I had no idea Yakult actually worked. As a child I just always wanted to have some, because who doesn’t want to drink something that comes in a tiny bottle, am I right.
It really is one of those healthy Japanese drinks everyone is always talking about.
The Japanese love jelly. It’s everywhere, in desserts in the form of coffee jelly or as a snack in little packs, but of course they also have a wide variety of jelly drinks.
The one in the picture is one of these drinks that is supposed to give you instant energy from calories added to the jelly. There are a wide variety of flavors and additions such as vitamins, energy (whatever that entails), protein and minerals.
There are jelly drinks for children as well such as Purun Purun Qoo which is a popular drink in Japan.
Aojiru is a Japanese vegetable drink, and it is one of the most popular drinks in Japan. There are countless TV commercials selling you the benefits of Aojiru, and how iportant it is to drink at least one every day. A wide variety of producers make Aojiru, most of them sell it in the form of powder which you can prepare easily at home just by adding cold or even hot water.
Every commercial is trying to tell us how delicious Aojiru is (even though it is famous for having an unpleasant bitter taste). I have never tried this Japanese drink, but if I ever get the chance to I will let you know how it tasted.
Drinks such as Tiovita or Lipovitan are the energy drinks of Japan. They come in 50 to 100 ml bottles, very small compared to our western energy drinks such as Redbull or Monster.
The Japanese energy drinks are supposed to help with concentration, fight weakness and fatigue, boost strength and norishment. They are popular drinks in Japan among students studying for exams as well as working adults who have to do a lot of overtime.
The benefits of these drinks are depicted in many TV commercials where drinking one small bottle of your chosen energy drink will revitalize you so much you can go another couple of hours more.
Have you ever heard about collagen drinks? Japan loves them. Especially the female half because drinking The Collagen (made by Shiseido the beauty company) is supposed to make your skin more shiny and young looking.
I’m not convinced but if you have the spare change to buy a bottle every day be my guest and try it. You can buy The Collagen at amazon.com as well.
When I feel a cold coming or all my colleagues at work start sniffing I start drinking C1000 Vitamin drink. It comes in lemon or orange flavor and contains lots and lots of vitamins, at least that’s what they write on the bottle.
I don’t know how true it is, and I don’t know how much it has really helped me over the years, but it tastes great and I fell I am doing something for my immune system.
The Japanese love drinking alcohol, so it really doesn’t come as a surprise that they also found the cure for the hangover that comes around the next morning.
Their answer to every hangover is turmeric an Asian root that is used for cooking, and apparently also in Japanese drinks to cure hangover.
It is important that you drink your hangover cure before you start drinking. You can buy one small bottle at every convenience or drug store. For people who like to drink alcohol this might just be the best drink in Japan.
I found the Kinako Mochi (きなこもち) drink at the convenience store close to my house and just had to try it. Kinako (黄粉) is roasted soybean flour which is commonly used for cooking or in sweats such as Dango (団子), which are mochi dumplings coated in sweatened Kinako powder. And this dango flavor was made into a drink, that you can buy either hot or cold.
It tastes very sweet and milky with the distinct Kinako flavor and is delicious. I couldn’t drink very much of it at a time because it was so sweet. It is one of those Japanese sweet drinks that really taste like a desert made into a drink.
Of all the traditional Japanese drinks Amazake (甘酒) might be the most popular today. It is made from fermented rice.
The Amazaka alcohol content is between 0 and 8%. When you buy it at the supermarket it is mostly non-alcoholic, but you should check the labels.
Many Shinto shrines provide it during the New Year. This is also where I have tried Amazake for the first time. I spent the New Years holiday in Aichi Prefecture with my boyfriends family. For our first shrine visit of the year called Hatsumode we visited the local shrine along with many other people. The Shrine provided not only the delicious hot Amazake but also real Sake and some soup for all the people who were waiting in line in the cold weather to make their New Years wishes.
I am not a beer drinker so I was never really interested in beer in general. But recently I learned that non-alcoholic beer in Japan is a great alternative to normal alcoholic beer, especially if you are the designated driver for the evening. In Japan there is no tolerance for drinking and driving and even one glass of beer can get you in big trouble.
So, if you are the driver for the night out make sure to order non-alcoholic beer only.
If you are like me and don’t like beer the alternative to non-alcoholic beer is non-alcoholic Japanese plum wine or Umeshu. I love Umeshu and I think it is great that they made a non alcoholic version. They sell it at some restaurants but also at the supermarket.
There is always more Japanese food an drink to discover, so when you visit Japan keep your eyes open for interesting discoveries, and don’t be shy. Try anything no matter how strange it might seem.
If you are planning a trip to Japan or are in Japan right now I have amazing resources for your trip. You can either head to my Japan Travel blog category, my Travel Experiences category or check out these posts:
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Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.