Japanese carbonated drinks became a hot topic among foreign travelers because of their original flavors and attention to detail, but actually the local soft drinks and sparkling waters in the different parts of Japan probably aren't well-known. In Japan, soft drinks that aren't cola-flavored are called "cider," though they are non-alcoholic. There are actually quite a few, local ciders available at local shops and convenience stores especially in the bigger sightseeing areas. Here are 5 recommended original soft drinks to look for.
The area of the Sagami Bay coastline in Kanagawa is called Shonan, and this local cider takes its name from that. The Shonan area is a sightseeing spot just about an hour away from Tokyo by train, and there's plenty to do there. It's the area that includes Enoshima, an island where you can enjoy the beach as well as the view from its mountain and different kinds of delicious seafood, and Kamakura, the city famous for its impressively large Buddha status at the temple called Kotoku-in. This cider was inspired by the blue waters of the sea off the coast of Shonan, and they use natural food coloring to get it to that light blue. The label design uses checkerboard patterns and waves done in metallic blue, making it a product that was truly made in the style of Shonan. It's low-calorie so it's not overly sweet, and it has a dry smoothness that is perfect for drinking while walking along the coast. You can buy it in stores like Fukushimaya Bussan in Enoshima, so please look for it.
There is another local cider being sold in the Shonan area. Its name is Enoshima Kamakura Cider. It was made in the image of Enoshima and Kamakura, areas where you can truly feel Japanese nature and history, and it's made with 5% Sicilian lemon juice for a refreshing aroma and natural sourness. It's the only cider made by Kamakura Beer Brew, Co., a brewery that makes local beers, and it has a characteristic crispness. When with alcohol such as shochu, the lemon flavor remains, and it becomes a cocktail that's very easy to drink. You can buy it in places like the kiosk at Kamakura Station.
Tokyo's Sumida-ku is home to various old and new sightseeing spots, such as Tokyo Skytree® and Ryogoku Sumo Hall. Sumida-ku is also the only place where you can buy Tokyo Cider. This cider was created in 1947, in the remaining disorder left in the post-war period, and was born with the wish that the scorched earth of Tokyo would recover and grow. You can say this cider is a symbol of the Tokyo shitamachi, the working-class areas. Production was stopped for a while, but thanks to the many people who requested its return, it began being sold again in 2011. Of course it has kept its simple sweetness, but they've also recreated the bottle and label as it was when it was first being sold. They also sell a version in the Tokyo Solamachi's Sangyou Kankou Plaza where the bottle looks like Skytree. If you go to visit Tokyo Skytree®, this is something you should definitely check out.
Shibamata Ramune is made in the Tokyo shitamachi, but it has a perfect sweetness and gentle carbonation. Ramune is a Japanese cider that's the originator of all Japanese ciders; it's famous for its particular glass bottle that has a marble that you push down in order to open the bottle. Ramune was so popular that in post-WWII in the Tokyo shitamachi alone there were more than 100 factories producing ramune, but now there's just a few more than 10. Among them is Shibamata Ramune, a factory that's continued to make them for decades. It was always the practice to wash and reuse glass ramune bottles, and even today they consider the recycling of bottles to be something obvious. It's a carbonated drink that's gentle on the environment. Shibamata still exists in the nostalgic areas of Tokyo, and it has a retro atmosphere that's totally different from the rest of the city. If you wander around those neighborhoods with a bottle of Shibamata Ramune in one hand, you'll definitely discover a new side of Tokyo. You can buy it in the Shibata Haikara Yokocho near Shibamata Station and Shibamata Taishakuten.
Osaka, the 2nd biggest city in Japan, has quite a few local ciders in existence. Among them, one that is particularly popular is Osaka Cider. It was originally produced in the 1950s and has since been revived. It has gained popularity and attention thanks to its retro bottle design. It has continued to keep the simple sweetness that it had in the old days, but the revival they added lemon, lime, and champagne touches to create a new flavor. The refreshing sweetness and airy, fruity fragrance will allow you to feel Japan's attention to detail. You can buy it in various places, including the souvenir shop Ichibirian in Nanba and Dotonbori, the shop Yume Gyarari Hatokin inside the underground shopping mall Whity Umeda, as well as dagashiya shops (cheap candy stores aimed towards children).
Walking around a sightseeing area with that area's local cider is one way to make the most of your trip. All the prices depend on the store and the area, but you should be able to purchase most of them from 100 JPY to around 300 JPY, so please try some of these ciders if you get the chance.
*Please note that the prices and other information in the article may not be the most up-to-date information
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.