There’s no escaping alcohol in Japan. The spirited beverage—which since the dawn of time has acted as stimulus for many a celebration and scapegoat for as many bad choices—has embedded itself so deeply into Japanese socioculture that just about any gathering results in a nomikai (drinking party).
But where there is drunkenness, there are hangovers. Sleep, bread and lots of water are the general go-tos in combatting these painful reminders of an evening spent a little too well. But every country has its methods for a more immediate recovery, and Japan is no exception.
Ukon—the Japanese word for “turmeric”—is a perennial favorite. Known primarily as an ingredient in curry, turmeric is believed to help detoxify the liver, among its other benefits, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The Japanese seem to believe this too: most convenience stores stock turmeric-based drinks, of which Ukon no Chikara (“The Power of Turmeric”) is the most recognizable. Many izakaya are equipped with ukon in powder form, while the Okinawa-originated ukoncha (turmeric tea) is also popular in some circles. Whatever its form, locals take ukon before and after alcohol.
Another ingredient with supposed remedial superpowers is umeboshi. The notorious pickled plum found in many onigiri rice balls and obento boxes is said to ease stomach pains and slow the body’s processing of alcohol if consumed before drinking (at the very least, the sourness should temporarily distract from the headache!).
Sports drinks are also a standard remedy. The unfortunately named Pocari Sweat and its myriad salty, vaguely grapefruit-flavored counterparts help rehydrate the body and get the toxins out of your system. Some people even use sports drinks to help with stomachaches and fevers.
If none of those are your cup (of whatever), grab a bowl of miso soup with clams—known to be high in amino acids that could help with stomach pains and other hangover symptoms.
When drinking sake, the key is hangover avoidance. Drinking water or soda as you sip—a process that even has a name, “yawaragi mizu”—will usually keep you in the clear, and has the approval of nearly all the contributors to our sake special, including Sumibiyaki Dining Abeya and Yoshi no Sasa. However, some of our specialists had a few additional hangover remedies of their own:
- Nakafuku recommends umeboshi, a sauna and “mukai-zake” (hair of the dog).
- Akita Pure Rice Sake suggests that drinking warm sake (e.g. atsu-kan) or pure rice sake will reduce the likelihood of developing a hangover in the first place.
- Sakeoh advises eating soba one noodle at a time—and taking your time with it.