Alcohol is a very important ingredient of Japanese society. Not only does it provide the glue that holds groups of employees together in a tight embrace after working hours, its overuse is also a welcome excuse to loosen the shackles of propriety towards your superiors and society rules in general. you are expected to be part of the group and drink together, but whatever misdemeanour happens once you’ve had enough will stay inside the group and is never mentioned the next morning. Drinking is socially accepted, even expected, and “nomi-hodai” – all you can drink – is often used as incentive to lure customers. (Note here that usually a visit to a bar or even restaurant is time bombed; you are expected to leaver say, 2 hours after you entered the establishment.)

Anyway, obviously I have limited experience with such matters – not because I’m a teetotaller, but because I have never worked in Japan and experienced enough of such events t form my own expertise. However, since coming here last month I have done some research of my own regarding alcoholic drinks and I have come across something that is called “Horoyoi Chu-Hi”, probably meaning something like “Tipsy Juice”. Essentially it is sweet lemonade with alcohol, only a tiny bit really, often at most 5 % vol. I have seen some with 8 % vol., but they are already called “strong”. It is very sweet, comes in gaudy tastes and colors and can be found right next to the beer cans in the fridge of every supermarket or convenience store. Those drinks are a relatively recent invention, apparently geared towards women who neither drink beer or sake and are generally believed to prefer sweet drinks.

I have tried quitedifferent types of Hi-Chu a variety so far, and I have to say: I like it! The picture shows a few different tastes (top to bottom: lychee and grape, lemon ice-tea, pineapple, apple, peach, and lime), and the one in poison-red is sour grapes. This is the perfect stuff to drink after a long sweaty day running through temples and shrines, and even though the alcohol content is minimal and can hardly be tasted, there are non-alcoholic versions as well. No matter whether with or without, as long as you don’t forget the ice both types are seriously oishii (tasty)!

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