NOTE:The sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants has been banned for two months already in several prefectures in Japan – including Shizuoka, and looks like it’ll be extended until October. Just know that I’m absolutely clamming for a pint.
Just like the UK, Japan has a big drinking culture. From cheap beer to expensive sake, if you enjoy hitting the sauce then there really is something for everyone.
With inhibitions lowered, Japan transforms into a different place at night – akin to a session down the Bigg Market in Newcastle on a Saturday night.
The same people who go to work with their heads down, eyes fixed on their phones, nodding and bowing and agreeing and hai hai hai-ing all day really know how to let their hair down at the weekend. In a matter of hours these same people are shouting, screaming, singing, hugging in the streets well into the early hours.
Public transport stops pretty early in most cities – around 11pm-midnight, so your options are run for the last train, pay for an expensive taxi or – the most popular option – stay out all night until the first train home at 5am. (Karaoke is a good call for this. 24-hour McDonalds are commonplace too.) Most train stations even have guards stationed at the weekend to stop merrymakers falling onto the tracks.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve almost been steamrollered by a group of guys holding each other up, almost tripping over the most kawaii of kawaii girls puking in the street while their friend holds their hair back, or people flat out fast asleep in bars, on walls, in bus stops, on the pavement still in their black business suit.
As you can expect of course, the last train home is definitely an experience. One of my favourites was a group of salarymen literally threw their colleague (who was wearing a silly hat) out of a train carriage presumably at his station. He waved and shouted a hearty おはようございます (“Good morning!”) as the doors closed. As the train pulled away, we all saw him fall backwards in the direction of a bemused guard, a look of elation on his face.
But as always – what comes up, must come down. Even as someone who is a bit of a seasoned drinker (annoyingly, Felipe can still outdrink me) and a Geordie, living in Japan has blessed me with some of the worst hangovers (“futsukayoi” in Japanese…as I’ve now learned) in my life.
Thankfully, Japan is well prepared for such situations because of course they are. Here are my favourite hangover remedies…
Before (and/or after): Ukon no Chikara
As always in life, it’s all about preparation, preparation, preparation.
There are a plethora of little bottles of liquid cures in every conbini containing ingredients such as tumeric, vitamin C, B, and iron which are believed to help break down toxins and alcohol during the night. They’re also pretty helpful the day after – but some are pretty gross tasting (such as Ukon no Chikara above, the top seller) and difficult to keep down after a particularly heavy night. Apparently.
It’s very popular amongst Japanese drinkers to stop at a ramen place for a pick-me-up.
Personally, I can’t stomach a bowl full of rich broth and noodles while drinking (my drunk food is McDonalds) however at my last niji-kai before the ‘rona, I told my co-teachers I would just order a pop. But because they were all half-cut and eager to treat me, I suddenly found myself with five glasses of Coca Colas in front of me.
After: Pocari Sweat
My favourite hangover remedy is a cold bottle of Pocari Sweat, a delicious electrolyte drink with a terrible name. Similar to Gatoraid in the US and Lucozade in the UK it contains potassium and magnesium to rehydrate you. However unlike them, it doesn’t have a lot of carbonation or a strong taste – a little citrusy and a little salty which I appreciate.
It’s available in convenience stores, but most vending machines also have it – really easy to grab a bottle (or two) as I’m stumbling home.
Also trust me, it pairs perfectly with a few 7-11 hash browns. *chefs kiss*
So there you have it, you’re now prepared for a big Japanese night out. After the ‘rona, of course. Stupid ‘rona.
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