Traditional Japanese Sweet Drinks: Amazake and Shiruko
In Japan, a wide variety of canned beverages, from fizzy drinks to soups, are available from vending machines dotted around the city.
In addition, some also carry alcoholic drinks, including beer and sake rice wine.
When you choose and purchase a canned drink from a vending machine in Japan, you may find beverages with Japanese tastes that you have never experienced before.
Among those, the traditional Japanese sweet drinks, “Amazake (甘酒: meaning sweet sake)” and “Shiruko (汁粉)”, are widely enjoyed only during the cold winter months.
They are usually served hot, but first and foremost, have you ever heard of them?
For the unfamiliar, Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink made with sake lees or by fermenting a mixture of rice and malted rice.
Its origin dates back to the Kofun period (古墳時代: the middle of the 3rd century to around the 7th century), and today, Amazake comes in many forms, including canned varieties.
Although its name includes the word “酒 (zake)” that stands for sake rice wine, Amazake only contains less than 1 percent alcohol and is classified as a soft drink in Japan.
So not only adults but also children can enjoy the sweet beverage.
We usually have heated Amazake in the wintertime, but some people like to drink chilled Amazake during the summer.
The beverage is wholesome and nutritious, and it helps beat the heat and relieve fatigue in the summertime.
Meanwhile, Shiruko, or “Oshiruko (お汁粉)”, is a traditional Japanese soup dish made from Azuki red beans simmered in water, sweetened with sugar.
The red bean soup is often served with mochi rice cakes. But canned Oshiruko and instant Oshiruko products usually don’t contain mochi.
Like Amazake, Shiruko has a long history, whose origin can be traced back to about 400 years ago.
Although Oshiruko is a soup dish that represents Japan’s winter season, it can also be served cold in the summertime.