The Best in Japanese Mineral Water – Drink the Water that Gives Life to the Culture of Japan!
One thing that may surprise tourists visiting Japan from overseas is that Japanese water is so tasty and safe. For this reason, when you are thirsty you can get by with some tap water. There are also a wealth of options for cheap and convenient bottled water. This article will introduce you to the best varieties of bottled mineral water in Japan.
The Difference Between Japanese Mineral Water and Mineral Water from Overseas
While traveling abroad, there are likely some of you who have been warned against drinking the tap water of the area which you were visiting. However, there is no need for such worries when visiting Japan, as Japan's tap water is perfectly safe to drink. The reason for this is that in Japan strict quality control checks on tap water are mandated by law.
In order to disinfect the water, there is some chlorine added to it. The amount is very small and there are no adverse effects on health from consuming it, but there are those who suggest that they can smell chlorine from Japanese tap water. For this reason there are many people who prefer commercial mineral water over tap water. Most water in Japan is what is known as 'soft water'. Soft water contains less than 120g of magnesium per liter. When this rises above 120g, it becomes 'hard water'. Most of the water consumed in the West is hard water. Soft water is said to have a smooth texture that goes down easy.
Japanese Mineral Water - Popular with Foreign Guests
For those living in the west, they are likely accustomed to drinking hard water. Hard water has a high level of magnesium in it and therefore has a slight bitterness and distinct flavor to it. In contrast, because Japanese water is softer and has less magnesium, it does not possess this unusual taste and is smoother, meaning that it is easier to drink.
Japanese soft water goes perfect with taste and fragrance of the seasonal ingredients Japanese cuisine. It is also popular in cooking overseas. Moreover, outside of Japan, stores looking to serve up the best in matcha green tea will often use soft water.
The Best Widely Available Japanese Mineral Waters
Japanese mineral water is renowned the world over. But where can you get your hands on it and what types are available?
This article introduces you to the best in Japanese mineral water, focused specifically on those available in 24 hour convenience stores, well stocked supermarkets, and the vending machines found on many street corners across Japan.
I LOHAS Natural Water (Coca Cola Japan) - 555ml
From Hokkaido in the north, to Kyushu in the south, the water sold under the I LOHAS brand is taken from 7 different sites across Japan and consists of soft water with a hardness of between 31 and 71.1 mg depending on its source.
The area it was taken from is listed on the label, so it might be fun to compare water taken from different sites.
Suggested retail price: 120 JPY (excl. tax)
Found at convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as vending machines
Suntory Natural Mineral Water - 550ml
Suntory is a famous Japanese alcohol maker that is most known for its whiskeys and beers.
It offers three different varieties of water, each named after the area from which it is sourced; Minami Alps Natural Mineral Water, Okudaisen Natural Mineral Water, and Aso Natural Mineral Water. These different varieties are sold at different locations.
The Minami Alps (or Akaishi mountains) form a mountain range that is located in central Honshu and surrounds the town of Kita in Yamanashi Prefecture. Okudaisen refers to Mt. Oyama, located in western Honshu near to Kofucho in Tottori Prefecture. It is the highest peak of the Chugoku mountain range. Aso refers to Mt. Aso, located in southern Kyushu near to the town of Kashima in Kumamoto Prefecture. Whichever you happen upon, you can rest assured that each is sourced from the underground channels that give life to the luscious nature of the mountains.
Suggested retail price: 130 JPY (excl. tax)
Found at convenience stores, supermarkets and vending machines etc.
Region in which it is sold: Minami Alps Natural Mineral Water - Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Tokai, etc.
Okudaisen Natural Mineral Water - Hokuriku, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, Gifu Prefecture etc.
Aso Natural Mineral Water - Kyushu, Okinawa
TOPVALU Natural Mineral Water - Sourced in Japan (AEON) - 550ml
TOPVALU is the own brand line of the major Japanese supermarket chain AEON. This product, as the name suggests, is a mineral water sourced in Japan, taken from underground channels and not subjected to heat-based treatment. The specific area from which it is sourced is written on the label.
As it is an own brand line, prices are lower than other brands and therefore it is recommended for those who wish to buy in bulk.
Price: 48 JPY (excl. tax)
Found in AEON, Max Valu and other supermarkets, as well as drugstores such as Welcia.
7-Premium Natural Mineral Water - 550ml
7- Eleven was originally an American chain of convenience stores, however it now boasts more than 20,000 stores across Japan and it is known as a trailblazer in the Japanese convenience chain industry. Moreover, many of these stores are open 24 hours a day, meaning that you can pick up some supplies late into the night, solidifying them as an indispensable part of daily life in Japan.
7-Eleven sells 7-Premium Natural Mineral Water as part of its own brand line of goods. The water is sourced from four different areas, and the method of extracting the water as well as the hardness of the water varies based on the region from which it is taken.
Price: 91 JPY (excl. tax)
Found at 7-Eleven, as well as Ito-Yokado and other supermarkets and 100 Yen stores in the Seven & i Holdings group.
FamilyMart Natural Mineral Water - 600ml
FamilyMart is a large convenience store chain that is found throughout Japan. Its own brand of water is known simply as FamilyMart Natural Mineral Water and is sourced from three different areas. One of these areas is Tsunan in Nigata Prefecture, the home of the famous koshihikari variety of Japanese rice. Another is the Azumi Basin, located at the foot of the Northern Alps (also known as the Hida Mountain Range), with the third source being Kirishima in Kyushu.
Among these varieties, Kirishima sourced water has 150mg of magnesium per liter, making it a mid-level hard water, a rare find in Japan. However, depending on the region that you are in it may not be on sale. Moreover, the Azumi Basin variety is only sold in 2-liter bottles (98JPY incl. tax).
Price 98 JPY (incl. tax)
Found at Family Marts across the country (Azumi is not sold in Kyushu or Okinawa)
Recommended Sparkling Mineral Waters
There are likely some visitors traveling to Japan from the West who would like to drink some carbonated mineral water. As you would expect, you will have no problem purchasing carbonated mineral water in convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan.
If you are looking for this type of water, it will usually be labelled as 'carbonated water' (炭酸水) or 'sparkling' (スパークリング).
I LOHAS Sparkling - 510ml
I LOHAS Sparkling is created when carbonated gas is added to natural mineral water sourced in Japan. The fizziness is neither too strong or too weak, and is just perfect for those looking for a sparkling fix. It will help keep your mouth feeling fresh after eating some of the more oily Japanese foods, such as ramen.
Suggested retail price: 120 JPY (excl. tax)
Found at convenience stores and supermarkets nationwide, as well as in vending machines
Suntory Minami Alps Sparkling - 500ml
Suntory Minami Alps Sparkling is known for its strong carbonation and is recommended for those looking for that invigorating sparkling flavor and refreshing after-taste. One selling point is that because it uses soft rather than hard water, it is less bitter and has a weaker odor.
Suggested retail price: 100 JPY (excl. tax)
Found at convenience stores, supermarkets, and vending machines etc.
Some say that the delicate and refined taste of Japanese cuisine and the culture surrounding the unique taste and aroma of Japanese tea ceremonies are all thanks to the smoothness of Japanese water. In Japan you can find imported mineral waters, but make sure to try out local varieties too!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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