Japanese Hangover Cures

Not long after I’d first arrived in Japan, I inadvisedly got wasted on a school night and the next morning I had to get up for work, feeling like a rabid dog in its death throes. Fortunately I lived directly opposite a 7/11 which was full of potential remedies. I asked my room-mate’s Japanese girlfriend what was good for hangovers. She wasn’t sure, but wrote a request for a hangover cure on a piece of paper, in Japanese, for me to present to the convenience store staff.
I lurched across the road and handed my request to the bemused teenager behind the counter and he ran and found me a small glass bottle of elixir, which I glugged down, there and then. I quickly got over the urge to puke and was soon feeling just about ready to face the world.

I kept that handwritten request and made good use of it over the next few months. The same crumpled piece of paper was presented to a succession of spotty teenagers in convenience stores that year. In fact, it is still stuck to my pin-board, withered, faded and brown.

The Japanese are renowned for drinking heavily, and they have their own unique expression for “hangover”: “futsukayoi”, which means “drunk for two days.” You might like to exaggerate the level of your hangover by saying “mikkayoi” (drunk for three days) or “yokkayoi” (drunk for four days) etc.
Since businessmen are expected to get utterly trashed with their boss on a regular basis, there are plenty of hangover cures readily available in the shops of Japan.
What I was usually given by the convenience store staff were “genki drinks”. These are small, 100ml glass bottles of various potions which relieve all kinds of different medical complaints, from colds to loss of libido and, of course, hangovers.
Look out for the two bottles pictured below. They’re very effective at stopping booze-induced gut-rot, nausea and puking. A few minutes after necking one of these magic mixtures you’ll be bouncing around like Super Mario:

The sickly concoction pictured below is called Lipovitan D, and it was the inspiration for Redbull. It relieves physical fatigue and gives you boundless energy, but corrodes your esophagus like battery acid. (Having said that, I’m partial to the occasional Vodka and Lipovitan D cocktail at parties- guaranteed to give you the endurance and stamina of a Terminator, and make you equally as destructive.)

A popular pre-emptive hangover cure is to make a ramen shop your last port of call after a pub crawl. Gulping down a steaming bowl of ramen noodles before you hit the sack will nip your hangover in the bud.
Another age-old Japanese remedy is the humble miso soup. The nation’s favourite soup can be bought at most cheap cafes and restaurants for a couple of hundred yen, and seems to soothe the stomach and head in times of need.

Mari at Watashi to Tokyo endorses the miso method, and also recommends drinking green tea, eating grated daikon, or pushing pressure points.

I find that the amusingly-named sports drink “Pocari Sweat” makes you feel slightly less god-awful in the mornings by re-hydrating you and replacing lost sweat (hence the grotesque name). This is particularly effective if you’ve spent the whole night thrashing around on a dance-floor in a Tokyo nightclub.

The fruit, “Kaki” (persimmon) is considered a hangover cure in Japan. According to Metropolis magazine, their “combo of fructose, vitamins A and C and minerals is the secret”. The vitamins help metabolize the booze and break down the nasty toxins. Chomp on a kaki in the morning, and it will have the same effect as spinach has on Popeye.

Another natural remedy is kudzu, which is a kind of vine in the pea family. Powdered kudzu root has been an ingredient in traditional Japanese hangover cures for centuries. Desperate alkies take note- kudzu also suppresses cravings for booze.

Umeboshi pickled plums are also thought to relieve the morning-after problems. The pyric acid in umeboshi breaks down the booze in your body, settles your mangled stomach, and breathes life into your liver.
Asylum.com has some useful advice on post-piss-up umeboshi-munching: “For a normal hangover, bite off about a quarter of a plum and keep it in your mouth until it dissolves. For a whopper hangover, herbalists recommend popping a whole plum into your mouth. Continue to suck on it for about an hour after the plum has dissolved.”

The website What Japan Thinks conducted a survey of Japanese people to find their preferred hangover cures. The internationally accepted technique of drinking water topped the list, and sleeping came second. So, the familiar methods still seem to be the most reliable.

For the last couple of years I haven’t needed any of these remedies, though, because I take “ukon” before I go out drinking. Ukon is a miraculous turmeric supplement pill that you take before boozing, and it stops you getting a hangover. You could guzzle down a litre of whiskey and still wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy. Invaluable!

Anyway, as everyone knows, the best thing for a hangover is drinking heavily the night before, so I’m now going out to do just that.

101 Responses to Japanese Hangover Cures

  1. antigenre says:

    Great post! Chocola BB was always my favorite remedy – for hangovers, fatigue, anything. I always got the extra strength one. It’s like a huge shot of b vitamins. If I had known about Kudzu as a remedy, I could have just walked down my block to the empty lot that was overgrown with the stuff!

  2. koorogi says:

    “Drunk for three days” would be “mikkayoi”, and four days would be “yokkayoi.”

    Other than that, interesting post. I’ll have to try some of these next time I’m in Japan.

  3. Alec says:

    Thanks for the advice. Came at a perfect time. On Sunday I have hanami in the afternoon (from 3pm), a goodbye all-you-can-drink party in the evenings, and a goodbye all-you-can-drink party at my other job from midnight! Yes, it will be non-stop drinking from 3pm-5am so thank you again for the advice – I’m going to need it (>_<)

  4. S. Weasel says:

    Kudzu! I had heard of it as an alcoholism cure.

    It was introduced into the American South in the 19th Century, where conditions turned out to be extraordinarily favorable. This is a bad thing. It’s the ultimate in invasive plant species. Whole forests have been smothered to death by kudzu. It’s sensitive to frost, though, so it hasn’t spread to the rest of the country.

    Somebody brought us a cutting of kudzu to plant as a ground cover when I was a kid down on the farm. I’ve never seen my stepfather so angry.

  5. christopher20 says:

    thank god i fond this site . from this day forward im drinking a 18 pack to the face every dam day for the rest of my life

  6. pKay says:

    Hmmm I wonder if this is similar to the types of drugs paramedics give heroin addicts that Over dosed (completelly passed out + paramedic drug = hobo wakes up)

    We learnt that there is a similar thing for alcohol, but using too much of it is no good…

    Everything in moderation i suppose!

  7. dragonlife says:

    Actually, there is a very simple way to avert ,or at least to lessen considerably hangovers:
    Drink as much water as possible: before drinking, while dining and/or drinking, after drinking, before going to bed, during the night if you wake up, and after you wake up in the morning!
    You’d better believe the old geezer I am!

  8. roaf says:

    Yeah, the old methods are generally the best!

  9. Chris B says:

    Lots of water and some more water!!!

  10. Simaldeff says:

    Actually alcohol has a tendency to provoke dehydration … so the best hang-over remedy is having a friend studying or working in an hospital that can smuggle some common polyvitamin IVs …
    1 IV and you are curred … guaranteed.
    Drinking lots of water and taking some vitamins is good too.

  11. billywest says:

    How they manage to have the longest average life expectancy here, I’ll never know. Well, actually, it’s only the women. But, the men live pretty damned long, too.

  12. roaf says:

    It’s the green tea. And the fish, I suppose.
    The women probably live longer because, for generations, they haven’t had to go out to work, and chilling out all day at home probably lengthens your life.

  13. pear says:

    Best hangover cure = hair of the dog = stay drunk

  14. claytonian says:

    under the impression redbull came from Thailandよ

  15. roaf says:

    Yeah, you’re right. That’s why people always come back from Thailand with those grey Redbull T-shirts!
    They developed the recipe from Japan’s Lipovitan D.

  16. Seth says:

    I’ve seen Pocari sweat before, I speant 9 months living in Qatar during the Asian Games, and this was the official drink for it, I tried it once, can’t quite remember what it tasted like but I don’t think I liked it…

  17. roaf says:

    It tastes like Gatorade.

  18. Gary says:

    Yup, gotta love the Lipovitan D, there’s a similar drink around called M150. The best part of it is the logo, anything with “Sacrifice” on the label needs to be tried at least once!

  19. roaf says:

    I’ll look out for that!

  20. Greg says:

    I take a combination of green tea and Pocari after drinks, and have yet to experience a hangover. But it could be that I haven’t guzzled down tons of alcohol even though I like Korean soju a lot.

  21. roaf says:

    I like Soju, too. And it’s cheap as hell. 800 yen for the whole bottle in Watami. A cheap night out!

  22. Drunk Irishman says:


    In my years and years of drinking, I have yet to find a hangover cure better than two red beers. (V8 and any american beer)

    Miso, is a very close second. very, very close.


  24. hamusandochan says:

    haha i have a friend who drinks pocari sweat all the time just because of the name XD

  25. roaf says:

    Yeah, that’s certainly the reason I drank it the first time.

  26. Dave says:

    Great post. I especially liked the final line: “the best thing for a hangover is drinking heavily the night before, so I’m now going out to do just that.” That’s alcohological as far as I’m concerned.

  27. roaf says:

    Cool. Alcohological is a fine expression!

  28. roadkill says:

    I can’t believe no one’s listed codeine! Hydrocodone is the best, synthetic narcotic that kicks the headache’s ass and puts you back on your feet and ready to fight!
    Any kind of pain killing narcotic will work, but codeine’s the best-not so strong it knocks you out, but strong enough to kill any headache.

  29. yojinbo says:

    Great post. I tried the umeboshi on a hangover the other day and it worked pretty well.

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  32. marco aurilio says:

    Thanks for the rounded view. Hangover cures come in two paradigms: prophylactic and acute treatment. Most alcohol consumers don’t begin drinking with the intention to reach the level at which a hangover occurs. Usually trial and error helps us all learn that limit from wretchedly powerful experience. I totally agree with the quality and blending of alcohols being a big factor in hangover outcomes.. Recently however on a well sourced suggestion i used dehydrated Nopal cactus powder (opuntia ficus-indica) for both hangover prevention and treatment. Wow …amazing….everyone to whom i have passed on this remedy, and has actually tried it was equally impressed. There is even some science behind it in terms of hydration and antioxidant benefit. 1-2 teaspoons in water or juice does the trick, and works best when taken before drinking begins. I have found it to also be effective, if i can remember just before bed and thankfully the morning after. I can’t imagine it doing much when you’re so hung-over that nothing stays down, which is best served with an IV, per my paramedic friend’s experience. The best deal on Good quality dehydrated Nopal is at http://www.nopalamerica.com.. They ship PRIORITY for free.

  33. worldwider says:

    Great article! Thanks mate.

  34. Would not drinking so hard be an option?

  35. Хм… Но, как говорится в поговорке, а воз и ныне там 🙂

  36. Это хорошо что вы начали вести блог,ведь у вас это отлично получается и надеюсь будет еще лучше. Главное писать о том,в чем вы разбираетесь. Удачи. 🙂

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