In a world full of turmoil and chaos, there are few absolute truths that we can always count on. Grass is green, the sky is blue, water is wet and tastes like yogurt…wait, what?
That’s right, because Japan can’t seem to leave well enough alone, not even the foundation of life itself – water – is safe from its constant hijinks.
Japan gets hot during the summer – like, really, really hot. It’s a common occurrence for an unsuspecting foreigner to stumble into the air-conditioned haven of a conbini (convenience store) for a bottle of pure, refreshingly plain water – only to realize in disdain or amusement that what they just purchased is actually a clear bottle of water that tastes like tomatoes.
Horrified? Intrigued? Let’s take a look at some of the most audaciously flavored waters that Japan has come up with over the years.
Cafe Latte Water
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I could really use a nice latte, but without the coffee… or milk, or caffeine… also, I wish it could be as crisp and refreshing as water.”? If so, you’re kinda weird and oddly specific – but that’s okay because Japan is too, and boy do they have the beverage for you!
This “Clear Latte” from Asahi claims to be made from its “oishii mizu” or “delicious water”. Bold claim Asahi, bold claim.
Flavored with espresso extract and whey minerals to give it that creamy coffee vibe – this water is targeted at those trying to cut out caffeine and / or watch their figure. It’s “calorie light”, fat free, and void of caffeine, basically making it coffee without the coffee. Thanks Asahi, very cool!
Suntory – one of Japan’s largest beverage distributors – lit the world of water on fire (wait, is that even possible? You know what, never mind) a few years ago after releasing the now iconic “Yogurina” yogurt flavored water.
The yogurt water is flavored with whey cultures from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island that’s famous for it’s milk products. According to Suntory’s website, the water itself is sourced from the “pristine Japanese Alps” – take that, Asahi!
The whey cultures give the water an undeniably yogurt-esque tang, and honestly, it’s not unpleasant if you’re into that sorta thing. It’s a big hit in Japan and unlike most unique water flavors that disappear after a short run, it can still be found throughout the country.
Perhaps the most egregious of all fruit flavored waters in Japan, the tomato flavor from I Lohas can easily be mixed up among its more common companions. I Lohas has released a lot of inconspicuously fruity flavors like peach, white grape, and apple, and they’re often lined up together in the cooler of your local conbini.
I myself love both apples and tomatoes. When I first came to Japan, with little language skills and stars in my eyes – I once found myself in the unfortunate position of having accidently purchased tomato water instead of apple water. While I do love a nice, vine-ripened tomato during peak season, I prefer my water untainted by the fruit family’s most decisive member.
According to Coca-Cola – the distributor of the I Lohas brand – the water is flavored with tomato extract from the “carefully selected” tomatoes of Kumamoto prefecture. It also contains 40mg of sodium per 100ml, positioning it as a solid contender against the popular sports drinks like Pocari Sweat during the sweaty summer.
Except, ya know… it tastes like tomatoes.
Interestingly enough, according to Asahi, the inspiration behind clear water based beverages is that – in Japanese offices and schools – it’s often looked down upon to be drinking juices or sodas. At TokyoTreat we think you should drink whatever you’d like – but hey, if you’re worried about getting some sharp stares from colleagues or classmates, Japan’s got you covered!
What’s the weirdest flavor of water you’ve ever tried? Are there any flavors you wish you had in your country? Let us know in the comments below!
Tanner is a content editor and marketing associate based in Tokyo, Japan. As a former professional cook, he loves exploring Tokyo's food scene and cooking at home for his partner. He also enjoys bad puns, decent coffee, oxford commas, and reading fantastic genre fiction.
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