7 Famous Japanese Hangover Cures Reviewed

Christmas in Japan

Christmas in Japan is a really big deal. Across the nation, Christmas trees are brimming with decorations, girls are dressed in sexy Santa outfits, and thousands of sparkling lights convey the warm message that the holidays are finally upon us and it’s now okay to forget all about that energy-conservation nonsense. If you’re a guy with a steady girlfriend, you meet her for dinner, or if you’re married, you wait in line at Kentucky Fried Chicken to take home a scrumptious cardboard bucket full of chicken parts. And if you’re single, you try to balance the demands of the half dozen women who just texted you out of the blue all wanting to go on some sort of romantic Christmas date. The holidays create some real scheduling issues, let me tell you.

I’ve noticed that Christmas means different things to different people, like for example presents, cakes, or tiny reindeer. Those are all solid choices. There’s even a whole Jesus component, which apparently causes some kind of yearly “war” in America, despite the fact that everyone agrees infant baby Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th. So that’s strange. And why are the reindeer tiny anyway? You’d think if you had a whole sleigh full of toys you’d want the biggest reindeer available. Well whatever. Anyway Christmas in Japan is more about shopping and dining than anything religious, and it’s not even a holiday. It’s like, Merry Wednesday.

A Hangover for all Seasons

So I woke up Thursday morning and had to go to work but for some reason I couldn’t see out of my left eye and my head hurt so bad that I thought maybe I’d just try to shave while lying in bed. You know, sometimes even the greatest ideas don’t work out too well, and now I have a bunch of water and shaving cream all over my sheets. I really gotta get an electric razor. Then I couldn’t find my pants, but that was only because I’d aired them out on the balcony railing the previous night after this Christmas date with some girl I didn’t even know and they’d blown away in like a surprise typhoon. Stupid windy country. Now all of a sudden I’ve gotta be a meteorologist too? Jeez, it’s all very complicated, living in Japan. Anyway, somewhere five miles away some homeless guy just found a pair of brand-new khakis and he’s like Hello, merry Christmas to me. So that was my good deed for the season.

Then midway through the shaving process, some survival instinct kicked in and I suddenly decided it would be good to crawl into my kitchen and begin rummaging through the cabinets for something to rehydrate my desiccated brain. I possess all the major Japanese hangover cures for just such occasions, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from making the exact same mistake thousands of times.

Famous Japanese Hangover Cures

1. Ukon. This is what the Japanese call turmeric. It’s the stuff that makes curry yellow, and it tastes exactly like dirt. I drink it as a tea every day because they say it’s good for the liver and because I apparently like the taste of dirt. But nobody else does, probably because they’ve got taste buds, so I can’t really recommend it as a refreshment. Anyway, the Japanese consume masses of the stuff as a hangover preventative and cure, in tea, capsules, and these little aluminum cans called Ukon no Chikara. I’ve tried it in every form over the years and I can say with great confidence that it has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon a hangover. Zero. If anything, it might even make it a bit worse. Anyway, I still drank a big cup of it, I don’t know why. Tiny reindeer.

2. Shijimi Miso soup. This is miso soup with lots of little clams that are supposed to be restorative and good for the liver. Why mini clams would benefit your liver, and not, say, your appendix I’ve no idea, but whatever. I mean, when is a hot cup of broth not good for a hangover? Never. So it’s good, is what I mean. It’ll make you feel about one percent better. So maybe if you drank like a hundred cups of the stuff, you’d be cured. Actually, you’d probably be literally cured from all the salt, but anyway, it’s not terrible, so I drank a steaming cupful.

3. Shichimi. This is seven-spice powder. A lot of countries associate spicy foods with hangover cures, and Japan is no different. I think theoretically if you ate enough shichimi, your body’s natural endorphins would kick in to block the searing pain in your mouth and thus your hangover, but it never seems to work out that way. Anyway, it tastes good in shijimi miso soup, and it won’t make you feel any worse, so that’s almost a plus.

4. Umeboshi. These are pickled plums. They’re super tart and salty and taste approximately like somebody tried to cross a peach with an olive. They do nothing for a hangover though. But they’re not horrible, so I ate a couple.

5. Pocari Sweat. This is just Japanese Gatorade with a hilarious name. It’s pretty much useless for a hangover, but it’ll get your kidneys back online, so that’s a good thing, I guess. I drank half a bottle and laid on the cold floor for a bit.

6. Persimmons. These are called kaki in Japanese, I guess because Japanese people like to give food hilarious names. Kaki are deep orange and shiny and look like they should taste really good, but actually they don’t. Japanese folks say they’re beneficial for a hangover, but actually they’re not. What they are is like eating a really old apple. I guess maybe if they make you hurl up some booze that’s a good thing, but otherwise they’re worthless. I ate a few bites of dried kaki along with some more Pokari Sweat and felt decidedly worse. Then I laid on the floor some more.

7. A couple of Alka-Seltzer that you brought from the United States like six years ago. Okay, this isn’t even remotely Japanese but it does actually have a positive effect, probably because it’s freaking medicine and not some leftover thing Japanese granny had lying around her kitchen. It can make your hangover go from deathly horrible to plain horrible, and even then you’ll still feel like you’re dying, but at least it’s better than trying to snarl down a persimmon.

So I’m not an expert on very many things, but if there’s one thing the nation of Japan agrees upon it’s that Ken Seeroi knows hangovers. You know how some people get up and have a cup of coffee or a piece of toast? Yeah, well I get up and have a hangover. It’s just my thing, like a hobby. And I’ve tried every hangover cure known to man only to reach the conclusion that—-Anybody who says they have some cure is either lying or just didn’t have enough to drink. Like next time, drink two bottles of tequila and then try your miracle cure. Then if that still works, okay, well, drink four bottles of tequila. Okay, don’t really do that because you’d probably get arrested or die and then I’d feel all guilty, but my point is that at some point, nothing’s gonna work. You just gotta gut it out, ingest a bunch of happy placebos, and pray for Santa to bring you a new brain. Merry Christmas. But since I knew I could sleep at my desk, I found some slacks in the laundry pile, gave them and my body a quick Fabreeze, and stumbled out into the wind wishing I hadn’t lost my gloves. I really need them tonight too, since I scheduled in a couple more ladies to have drinks with. Man, Christmas in Japan sure is a busy time. Come on New Years.

41 Replies to “7 Famous Japanese Hangover Cures Reviewed”

  1. Well, the Pocari sweat makes sense. A lot of the hangover is dehydration sickness. Getting some carbs etc. in too helps a lot. I usually go for pocari sweat, kitsune udon, and then pretty much maul whatever meat I got from the supermarket raw.

      1. I agree Ken, that’s a mannnly way to handle it, but I heard the Sicilians have the most virile hangover cure, they chew dried bull penis (sort of like dick jerky), SO HELP ME GOD! American cowboys, ya know the tough guys of the old American west were not so manly when it came to their hangover cures, they drank rabbit shit tea…. hmmmmm!

        1. Gaaaaa . . . the solutions are going from bad to worse. If that’s what it comes down to, I think I really will give up drinking.

  2. Don’t they drink raw eggs mixed with soy sauce there, hmmmm or did I see that in a Rocky Movie? You silly goose, stop drinking before you pickle your liver…LOL! The Japanese are so wierd about rumored stuff, like charms and homemade cures and curses…. whats up with that!? Write, Fight and Populate Mang! Ganbatte!!

    1. As I recall, soy sauce made its first appearance in Rocky XII, as part of a fight scene between Stallone and a Chinese waiter.

      We do eat raw eggs with soy sauce atop rice here, but I’m not sure it cures anything other than your appetite. I’ve never really understood why a person wouldn’t just want to cook the eggs either. I mean, who likes raw eggs?

      1. No really, there is a hangover remedy known in Europe, the America’s and the far east that has a raw egg, Tabasco sauce, and a variety of other sauces with a pinch of salt and/or pepper (it varies from place to place) and is often called a “prairie oyster”. I’ve had one made with soy sauce and it was made by a Marine Friend’s wife who was Okinawan and it did help because it made me puke instantly. Spike made one for Cowboy Bebop in that anime series of the same name and I think Rocky drank one in one of his movies.

        FYI, Body builders used to drink raw eggs mixed with creotine powder (in a sort of milkshake) when recovering from extreme sets of weight lifting! Apparently, the belief was to overdose on protein to help build up muscle mass after tearing down the muscles using extreme repetitions. I do like my eggs cooked also, but I have tried the raw eggs over rice and it is pretty good too! I’m so full of triviality today that I’m getting a headache now… damn! Drink, fight and regurgitate – pun intended!

  3. Try drinking the sweat BEFORE you go to sleep. Seriously, it helps. Not as much as a kebab before bed (that’s what we do in Australia but they’re kind of hard to come by in the inaka where I live), but some.

    1. That’s a good tip. My basic policy is to stop at the convenience store on the way home and drink a bottle of something non-alcoholic. That does help a bit. The only danger is that it’s very tempting to pick up one last can of chu-hi or something. As for the kebab, I wonder if yaki-niku would suffice.

  4. Hilarious as usual 🙂 I don’t n drink so I don’t really know what the cure is. But I’m pretty sure the Japanese cures are even worse than the cause itself LOL.. except the pocari sweat 🙂
    What I’m curious about is the Japanese people doesn’t seem “religious” but they take Christmas party pretty serious eh?

    1. Yeah, I think you’ve stumbled on the only real cure, which is not drinking in the first place. That would work pretty well. I really gotta try it some day.

      So the whole Christmas in Japan thing . . . it’s kind of like Halloween for the U.S. Which is to say that it’s celebrated as something fun to do, without anybody getting too deep into the meaning behind the holiday. It’s probably safe to say that the average Japanese person understands Jesus about as well as they understand Santa. You know, some mysterious dude with a full beard who lives in a place far away and occasionally flies through the sky doing nice things for mankind. Kind of like superman, but not as clean-cut and without all the muscles.

      Anyway, yeah, so the Japanese have done a great job of replicating the general trappings of Christmas, with lights, trees, and Santa, while largely dispensing with the religious core. Japanese folks are experts at making things look great on the outside, while having no real substance inside, like a beautifully wrapped Christmas box full of nothing. But maybe people everywhere do that too, now that I think about it. Either way, they certainly do it here.

  5. I remember drinking Pocari Sweat for the first time at the station in Odaiba. I picked it because everything else looked like of unappealing or boring, and I slightly remembering Pocari being popular. Right away I wondered why anyone would willingly drink something that tasted like it wasn’t supposed to a drink to begin with. But then I had another one later that week and thought it was okay.

  6. I feel like there’s a link to curry that needs to be explored (I have not yet).

    Pocari/VAAM/Aquaris prior to bed always helps.

    Better luck with new years 🙂

    1. You know, you’re right. I often have curry the day after drinking, which, since I drink pretty much every day, works out quite deliciously. Because curry contains both turmeric and hot spice, it checks two of the seven boxes right away. Then if you wash it down with a Pocari Sweat, you’re almost half way there. It won’t cure you, but it’s probably got a vitamin or two and it’ll give you the strength to open a pack of Alka-Seltzer, which is all that really matters.

  7. You have a great sense of humor and sarcasm. Maybe you can write a hitchhikers guide to Japan. Or a motor scooter’s guide? Whatever it is, keep writing please.

    Diet of curry and hop (malt may get expensive) may be on the agenda with the continued yen degradation combined with inflation. At least powered pocari/aquarius is cheaper. And there is always the local pan ya. My word, bread in Japan is unbelievable. The combinations leave me constantly stunned and I’m sure if I could read kanji, I’d be more surprised.

    I have to chime in, umeboshi and rice with an upset stomach is a lifesaver…

    1. I’m right there with you when it comes to umeboshi and rice, not just for an upset stomach but pretty much any time of the day or night. That’s just, as we say in Japanese, dericious.

      I also agree with you about the bread. They do some crazy stuff in the bread shop—you gotta wonder who’s in the back saying “And let’s add hot dog slices and some corn and then we’ll top it all with mayonnaise, okay”—but it always tastes amazing.

  8. Great piece man.
    One I can rrreeaaaaaaaaaalyy relate to.
    Got lots of them “home grandma” cures here in the balkans.
    I’m gonna advise you to maybe give this one a shot.

    STEP1. Hold your working hand in a fist. Then proceed in poking out your index and middle finger while crawling to the toilet bowl. When the proper position is assumed (to avoid spillage of toxic chemicals) Use both your index and middle finger in a gentle inward motion with the hope of inducing vomiting.
    Step 1 complete! Now after you have removed most of the nuclear waste that otherwise would have continued messing you up you proceed to step 2.

    STEP2. Ayran – just buy soured(like the fermented kind) yogurt then mix with water and add like a shit ton of salt, then, bottoms up! This one helps with the re-hydration while acting as food, and also soothing your tummy, just as long as you don’t add too much salt.

    Pleasure reading your posts as always!
    Retiring now to drink my Ayran *.*

    1. Yogurt. Ah, you crazy Balkans. I have a strong feeling that if I were to ingest soured yogurt mixed with salt and water that Steps 1 and 2 would be instantly reversed. Either way, I guess it’s some kind of cure though.

      Thanks for reading, seriously!

  9. Man, your blog is no good for reading on the train. People stare at me on the Tokyo Musashino line as I cry tears of laughter with one hand clamped over my mouth. Keep up the great work. It makes me feel nostalgic about when I first came here and so happy that someone out there thinks the same things during their passive aggressive inner diatribes on frustrating days in Japan. Love it.

    1. Thanks a bunch. Yeah, Japan is great when you first get here. I’m nostalgic for that feeling too. Like sometimes I’m sitting in an izakaya, eating some deluxe tofu with kimchee thing and talking with a cute Japanese gal over a glass of shochu, and I think, Man, I’m in Japan! Japan! I used to dream about this and now I’m living it! Livin’ the dream. And now life is freaking perfect. Well, maybe I could have a better job. Okay, and an apartment where the fridge isn’t an arm’s-reach from the toilet. Although that is highly convenient. And I guess it’d be nice to have a few more girlfriends, a bathtub that’s bigger than a bucket, and if strangers didn’t walk up and start speaking English. Jeez, why can’t life be flawless, you know? Remind me to play the lottery. I’m pretty sure money can fix all this.

      1. Just remember, if there was a nirvana-like place to live, we’d all be there. Yeah, when the rose colored glasses come off (why are they rose colored anyway), Japan’s is a little different than expected, but it’s a pretty cool place to live. I’d say the same about a few other places as well and that’s what’s pretty cool about the world we live in today; we’re able to move around to so many cool countries and experience life. Or live it virtually via blogs

        1. Yeah, it’s not Nirvana, but it’s cool. The longer I’m here, honestly, the more normal Japan becomes, and the more I think that 90 percent of everything that’s ever been written about the place is wrong. So I think a lot of the disconnect between expectation and reality boils down to having received so much misinformation, which colored (rose) my initial impressions of the place. You know, all the stereotypes, about Japanese people being polite or friendly or short or thin. Okay well, they’re pretty thin, but still.

          So a lot of impressions that people have of Japan seem based on how they’ve been primed to look at the country. They’ve heard the same info so often (“Japan is technologically advanced”) that when they arrive they’re predisposed to look for confirmations of that bias. Wow, a heated toilet seat, so high-tech. So it takes a while to see beyond all that misinformation. Most people only stay a year or two, and they’re enveloped in a gaijin bubble, so they just go back to their home countries and report on what they saw, which is only a veneer, not reality.

          So yeah, I think Japan’s cool. But maybe not for the reasons most people write about.

          1. Very thoughtful response Ken. I’ve not been here too long and have already forgotten the technology stereotype. Well, I guess it is advanced technology because much of what’s till used came about 20 years ago. Unless we’re talking about the technology used in the construction of my apartment which must date back to the shogun era. Although the kotatsu and heated carpet are clever ideas but still don’t offset the cold.

            So I’ve forgotten the technology stereotype for Japan but am starting a new one by assuming that everyone in the US has guns and goes around shooting each other for fun. I don’t recall this really being the fact…although there are lots of guns.

            Wait, you said there’s misinformation in Japan. Think there are more than 48 people in AKB48?

            1. The kotatsu and heated carpet are marvels of Japanese technology. And they work wonders, so long as you wrap the carpet around yourself, turn it to max, and then set the kotatsu on fire. Note however that this is a short-term solution.

              As for AKB, I’m just mesmerized by thighs. And no matter how hard I concentrate, they won’t stand still long enough for me to get an accurate count.

  10. Love you blog. Taught me some rather interesting things. I just started living in japan for over a month now, currently studying in a Japanese language school. Still feel kinda lost here. How bout i buy you a beer! Would love to know more about the lifestyle here & Its Friday = No Plans! = Sad person. Might be checking out 300Yen Bar at Ginza . Drop me a email if you don’t mind joining.

    Btw i heard Gaijin Forum closed. They are somewhat using Facebook now.

    1. Ah, the 300 Bar, what fond memories. Sorry, I meant to press the question-mark key, like “What fond memories?” Anyway, I used to go there a lot, since the drinks are super cheap and you can meet a lot of people, plus it’s dark, which always helps. I don’t get out there much any more, but if I do, I’ll drop you a line.

  11. Oh alright sure! Where do you go nowadays. Well for a western they sure get a lot of attention , I’m a Malaysian and a lil japanese look alike. Went there and didn’t get to meet anyone! Haha. Maybe add me on line? Should be going drinking with some japanese business man friends of mine this Friday.

    1. Ah thanks, Steven. Lately I’m keeping a pretty low profile and not going out as much. Part of my “Ken Seeroi Stays Healthy and Tries not to Die in 2014” campaign. But I’ll let you know if things change, as they have a tendency to do so.

      1. Alright then! Tonight’s another Friday night. Just line me tonight if you haven’t had enough to drink and wanting more . Haha! Hear from you soon

        1. Thanks man, I’m currently working on drinking less, not more, but I’ll let you know if that doesn’t work out.

  12. ”Merry Wednesday.”
    Once again, you rarely fail to make me laugh. Now do not jump to any other conclus…- ok you already did I’m sure.
    Thank’s for writing 🙂
    Fang. Now in Japan. With like a blog and all. And snowproof shoes. And stuff.

    1. Yeah, you’re gonna need all the snowproof shoes and electric socks you can get your hands on, and by that I mean feet. Particularly if your apartment is as well insulated as mine.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Welcome to Japan!

      1. It is minus 4 degrees celsius in the bathrooms and corridors. I live in the mountains. I think the house I live in can totally compete with your flat, freezing wise.
        Rooms = heater = ok.
        Outside room = not fucking ok.
        Apparently it IS insulated – how exactly is the question, because let me tell you if you have the need to go pee at night it might just cost you your life. How exactly this nation does not have a flipping central heating system that, as its name indicates, centrally heats the whole house, is another question.

        Ps: yayyyy! Welcome meeeeeee! I have no social life and have not found a school to quit learning by myself at less than an hour drive but heyyyy, the toilet seats are heated and the food is gooooodddd!

        1. Absolutely, the food’s my favorite thing about Japan.

          I don’t know about you, but I did a bit of snow camping in the past, and that’s exactly what living in a Japanese place reminds me of. It’s like being in a tent in the middle of the snow. I sleep in a hat, and getting up to pee is a life-threatening adventure. Come on spring!

    1. There is also an antioxidant called NAC, which is short for N-Acetyl Cysteine. I take NOW brand, which I buy from Amazon.com . Take it WHEN you drink, not the next day. It boosts the amount of glutathione in your body, which turns into alcetylaldehyde dehydrogenase. It is acetylaldehyde which makes you sick when you drink a lot of alcohol. The body turns ethyl alcohol into acetylaldehyde, which is actually worse for us than alcohol (ethyl alcohol, aka ethanol,) Acetylaldehyde dehydrogenase dismantles acetylaldehyde, greatly
      reducing the harm which it can do to us. The body doesn’t adsorb glutathione from the digestive tract, which is why you must take NAC, which the body will turn into Acetylaldehyde dehydrogenase.

  13. Ken,

    Can you explain to me why Japanese do the Kentucky Fried Chicken thing on Xmas Eve? I have talked to lots of people about this and nobody has a logical explanation. Never been able to work that out.

    I got bowel cancer in 2012 that had spread to my lungs and had some operations to have it removed. My life expectancy was like 24 months max. Kind of good as it puts things in perspective and allowed me to do shit that I would have put off for later.

    Fortunately I am still here 9 years later, apparently still alive and kicking and still cancer free.

    Anyway I digress, the point was that I got really anal about what I ate and I took a myriad of supplements. I had curcumin powder on almost every meal. I had it on my weetbix (cereal) for breakfast, I had it on my salads for lunch, I cooked up a storm with curries and had it for dinner. I ended up in Japan and I went to a pharmacy and I found some Ukon and I bought like 15 bottles of it and then when I brought it back to Oz and had some it tasted like what I’d imagine dried crumbled dog poo to taste like, but just not as good. I am on to my last bottle coz I am a spendthrift and I don’t want to meet a “mottainai obake” but it has been a struggle.

    1. As for KFC, I’ve always reasoned it this way: Japanese folks adopted Christmas, and tried to replicate some of the traditions. So occasionally you’ll see lights or even a tree. Then what to eat? The image is of Westerners eating turkey. Yet turkey is hard to come by in Japan. So what’s a reasonable approximation? Chicken, of course. KFC quickly picked up on that and marketed the hell out of it.

      But on a more important note, wow, it’s great to hear you’re cancer free. Congratulations on, uh, being alive. Now, personally, I love ukon tea. But I doubt many, if any, Western people eat my diet of natto, miso, yogurt mixed with kimchee, vegetables with tofu, and occasionally fish.

  14. Yeah, being alive is much better than, well, not being alive. Death wasn’t really something I was looking forward to.

    Thank you for explaining the whole KFC thing. Never really got the turkey thing. It is much more American, but it has slowly started to get popular over here too. Xmas was always a roast chicken in our household, but your point was a good one.

    Now, your diet seems to be fairly similar to mine, especially in relation to Natto. I’m seriously addicted to the stuff. Have you ever had Natto Ramen? Had it once at a ski resort in Zao. Can’t really say that it was that good but it was a nice idea.

    OK, I confess, that I thought who would ever drink ukon tea? I mean, crazy stuff. So I had a look in my pantry to see what sort of teas I had and there it was, right between by decaf english breakfast tea and blueberry tea, a package of tumeric and ginger tea. I must admit that the blueberry tea seems really out there to be at the moment so that is kind of the pot calling the kettle black.

    Oh, I bought your book and it should arrive this week or next. Looking forward to it.

    1. Thanks much for buying the book! Let me know what you think and please leave an Amazon review if you’re so inclined.

      You also literally inspired me to brew up a big pitcher of ukon tea.

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