Sayonara hangover: we’ve found a cure!

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Brian Beatty is a tour leader for InsideJapan, and has suffered through his fair share of hangovers in his time (haven’t we all). For those of you who aren’t attempting Dry January, Brian reveals a mystery of the Orient that’ll keep you perky and bright no matter how many bottles of sake you drank last night…

The word for hangover in Japanese is “futsukayoi”, and if you plan on frequenting any izakaya (Japanese pubs) during your time in Japan you’ll probably have one to contend with at some point! But never fear – you’re in luck. If you’re a lightweight like me, these drinks can be a lifesaver.

The two main ingredients of the typical Japanese hangover cure are turmeric and liver extract, or ukon and kanzouekisu in Japanese. What is liver extract you ask? Well, I had to check myself. Apparently, it’s a solution made from animal livers, and was once the go-to treatment for a variety of health problems in Japan. It contains stuff like vitamin B-12, iron, and folic acid – ingredients that work like a booster for your liver to help process the alcohol through your system.

You can find these liquid cure-alls in the energy drink section at almost any convenience store (konbini). This photo was taken at my local 711 (and no, I wasn’t hungover at the time).

Hangover remedies galore
Hangover remedies galore

On the middle row are the two most popular hangover drink brands in Japan: Ukon no Chikara and Hepari-ze. You can see that these drinks range from about 200 yen (£1.40/$1.76) to a little over 500 yen (£3.60/$4.40) for a 100-120 ml bottle. The main difference is the amount of turmeric and liver extract in each bottle, so you can choose “Super”, “Hyper” or “Premium” bottles according to how much you think you’re going to be drinking.

I have only tried the white bottle and the “Hyper”, but I couldn’t really tell the difference so I just stick with the white one. It has a nice pineapple flavour.

Pineapple flavoured hangover remedy
Pineapple flavoured hangover remedy

Keep in mind that these drinks are meant to taken before you start drinking the night away, so I guess I should’ve called it a preventative rather than a cure. But if you forget to take one of these drinks, don’t despair – because Japan has a drink for that too. In my opinion they are not as effective, but they definitely help a lot. This picture shows one of the bottles you would take if you drank too much or ate too much. It’s mainly for nausea and contains 1000 mg of regular ginger and 300 mg of some other special kind of ginger.

For when you've overindulged...
For when you’ve overindulged…

Everyone’s body is different and these drinks will definitely NOT work if you’re planning to drink 20 beers or a huge bottle of sake. But if, like me, you’re not really a big drinker and you simply want to keep up with your friends for that special occasion – without spending the entire next day in the bathroom – give it a try.

Kanpai! (Cheers!)

Interested in Japanese drinking culture? Why not read Grant’s blog post about craft beer in Tokyo, take a look at Ben’s piece about bar snacks, or let us arrange an evening with one of our superb tour leaders at a Japanese pub! 

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