5 Japanese winter drinks
Tokyo in the snow
Credit: Masaki Tokutomi
Skiing at a resort in Zao, Yamagata
Credit: Brian Chiu
Hot lemon drink from a Japanese vending machine
Credit: Karl Baron
Warm up, Japanese style
In Japan in winter, cold and snow abound in most of the country. It's an opportunity to try some winter drinks that, as well as being typically Japanese, have the added benefit of warming you up.
Tea, of course
Obviously, you can't experience winter in Japan without drinking hot tea. It's hard to avoid, as you will usually be served a complimentary cup to accompany your meal in many restaurants. Green tea in particular is very widespread, and represents three quarters of Japanese tea production. At tea time, enjoy a cup of matcha tea, all froth and bitterness. There is also soba-cha, an infusion with grilled buckwheat grains, which will surely delight your taste buds.
Read : Wagashi, Japanese sweets
It's a little known fact, but the Japanese are a country of coffee lovers! If iced coffee is a must-have in summer, hot coffee is of course the drink of choice in winter. No matter where you go, the konbini down the street, or to one of the 1,200 Starbucks in the country, be aware that the coffee served is more American-style than Italian... However, winter in Japan is a great opportunity to enjoy seasonal snacks along with limited edition winter drinks you can't get outside of Japan. Give it a try!
To discover : A new Japanese-style Starbucks in Kyoto
They're impossible to miss: Japanese automatic drink dispensers are everywhere. Every 100 meters in big cities, and even tucked away in the most remote village, you'll find one! These machines, which are very handy when you get thirsty, offer many hot drinks, as well as cold ones, especially in winter: coffee or various kinds of tea with milk, jasmine or lemon, in plastic bottles or in cans. Take care, though: while the temperature of the bottle or can is gently warm, the liquid inside will be hot! These drink vending machine will be your greatest ally throughout your winter tour in Japan.
The Japanese love seasonal products, and are also enthusiastic beer drinkers. So naturally special edition beers come out for the cherry blossoms in spring and the arrival of the fall momiji. Winter isn't forgotten about either, which also brings it's its own special edition, with snowflakes printed on the bottles and cans. While each brand offers its own particular winter recipe, there is an interesting common point: the alcohol content is slightly higher than for other seasons!
During the coldest season of the year, you will also be offered hot sake. Beyond the practical aspect, warming the sake really enhances the flavor. It is heated gently, in a water bath of about 45 degrees. You may even find a grilled fugu fin in your glass! This is supposed to add a smokey taste to the beverage. Try it on a cold winter's evening, with snow falling outside, for the ultimate Japanese experience.
These are just a few suggestions to help you spend winter like the Japanese! Now it's up to you to choose the drink or drinks that are right for you, or even discover new ones...