Japan loves a good party, so everyone needs a bit of extra energy from time to time. If you do too, make like a Japanese salaryman and have a Japanese energy drink from a convenience store for breakfast. They’re often found in their own section, often right in front of the register for quick access after a long night of nomikai (drinking parties with coworkers).
There are so many types of Japanese energy drinks in tiny glass bottles that at first glance it can seem daunting, but don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Unlike typical energy drinks found abroad, such as Red Bull or Monster Energy, which focus on the caffeine content, Japanese energy drinks are a lot more complex. In fact, foreign energy drinks often have to change their recipe to fit Japanese rules.
The type you find in Japanese convenience stores are actually referred to as ‘quasi-drugs’ or ‘nutrition drinks’ under Japanese regulation. They’re identifiable by their tiny, ominous-looking brown glass bottles, sold in their own section separate from all the tasty Japanese convenience store food.
Japanese energy drinks can be sorted into three main categories:
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While not all Japanese energy drinks contain caffeine, in nutrition drinks designed to combat or alleviate physical and mental fatigue and tiredness, caffeine is key. A quick boost when you’re feeling tired, and you’ll be on your way.
Lipovitan is one of the longest-running Japanese energy drinks on the market, made by Taisho Pharmaceutical Company. Not only does it contain taurine as an active ingredient to stimulate the brain, it also has 50mg of caffeine per 100ml for that extra power.
With a name that says ‘POW’, and a host of herbal ingredients such as ginseng and an added bonus of Vitamin B, Q&P KOWA alpha claims to ‘work quickly on your fatigue now!’ It contains 1500mg of taurine and 50mg of caffeine per 100ml – a pretty powerful breakdown.
At half the size of the others on this list, Alinamin contains the same amount of caffeine so it really does pack a punch. While there is no taurine, it has plenty of Nicotinamide at 25mg and vitamin B1, so it can really act as a pickup for tiredness and fatigue.
If you’ve caught a cold or are on the cusp of catching one, drinks containing Vitamin C and even carrot extract are said to be beneficial. If you don’t have time to grab an orange and eat a carrot before heading to work, these are the next best thing (maybe). This type is especially good for preventing colds while enjoying a winter in Japan.
With a name that sounds like a battleship, Yunker Royal Premium 50 contains 14 active ingredients ready to fight that cold and stop it in its tracks (or at least keep it at bay for a little while). It also contains something called Mamushi which is from a Japanese Viper, so it’s not suitable for vegetarians, unfortunately.
Zena has a few ‘F’ varieties, such as the ‘F-ii’ for tiredness, but for colds it has to be the original, F-0. This powerful little number has all the carrots you’ll need, as well as six other valuable herbs, to create a quick-acting combination. The taste is undeniably strong, so we recommend this for anyone who’s brave enough.
Recommended by a number of sites during our research, Tiovita from Taiho Pharmaceuticals is said to be great to combat colds. It also tastes good and is one of the cheapest on this list. Containing Vitamin B, taurine, and caffeine among its ingredients, this is one hell of a pick-me-up.
It may seem drastic, but any drink containing taurine is one marketed at hangovers to get you through the day. Taurine is said to support nerve growth and stimulate the brain – especially needed if you’re a bit slow thanks to effects from the night before.
Many people in Japan also drink these types of energy drinks before a night out to prevent the hangover before the party even starts. In some stores, this kind of Japanese energy drink is located pretty close to the healthy Japanese snacks that people snack on during smaller drinking parties.
With a whopping 2000mg of taurine per 50ml, Lightup2000 packs a punch, ready to kick you into the day, hangover free. With nicotinic acid (also known as niacin), working on the liver, it’s designed for those with a hangover in mind. Many users comment on its sweet taste – good thing that it’s only 50ml!
Packed with taurine, amino acid, royal jelly, and guarana, Chocola Bb Hyper prepares you for anything you have to face on a hangover, both mentally and physically. Just imagine swigging back that bright liquid from its glass bottle. They even throw in carrot extract to keep colds at bay.
Riopamin is great for hangovers thanks to its 3000mg of taurine and substantial vitamin content. Vitamins B1, B2, and B6 all work to combat that next day feeling along with caffeine and amino acid to boost your body up and get it working. These ingredients are great for harnessing that energy you thought you’d spent away with the last Strong Zero.
Let us know if you’ve spotted any of our suggestions in your local convenience store, or if you’ve done the Japanese energy drink challenge and tried a few for yourself. Do you have a favorite? Anything you wouldn’t try again?
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