I felt like I should write about this for any first-time visitors to Japan, but also because in summer, I really love these things.
As mentioned in previous posts about Japan, the convenience stores here carry more than just your typical 7-11 fare. Whereas most people think of convenience stores at gas stations (or near them) as having loads of unhealthy snack food, beef-jerky items, tampons and condoms, once you leave the states these things really blossom.
I wrote years ago about gas stations and restaurants basically being the only things open in Germany on a Sunday, so those guys had a lot of household necessities: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, freezer dinners, etc.
However here in Japan, the convenience stores have even more: basic toiletries and even changes of clothes for your average, overworked salary-man who didn’t leave the office and worked all night, or stayed out too late drinking with clients and coworkers and missed the last train: you can get a new tie, a clean undershirt, all of the deodorant and hair products you need to look fresh and renewed the following day at work.
Along with this, you can also take a shower in most laundromats. Photo of this to come next time I walk past one and remember to take a photo.
This is all getting off the point of the post: the jelly drinks.
Most first-time visitors to a Japanese convenience store might walk right past this tiny refrigerator, normally positioned near the entrance or by the cold food items, and not even notice it. It’s an entire small fridge of single-serving drinks, ranging from specialized smoothies to energy drinks (think Emergen-C) in tiny glass single-shot bottles. These are too small to go on the normal cold shelves with the other drinks, so there’s a special section just for them.
But at the top, what are these odd packets that say things like ‘Energy’ or ‘Protein’ on them?
They are teh jelly drinks. And they are great.
I was confused about them when I moved here, so utilized my job seeing a minimum of 8 Japanese strangers each day at work to ask: why do jelly drinks exist, and why jelly? Why not just liquid? Why is there often a jelly version AND a liquid version?
As expected, I got a range of answers from ‘because it’s different and interesting’ to ‘so if you drop it, it doesn’t spill’. However, for the most part, the people I asked said ‘I don’t know why jelly drinks are popular’ and ‘these packets are easy to carry, and won’t spill’.
Another added bonus I’ve noticed, since it’s summer, is that the jelly drinks don’t sweat the way a bottle of liquid does. Simple science and blame it on the Capri-Sun aluminum-ish juice-squeeze-packet style package, but I can leave this in my purse right next to all of my paper to-do lists and bills (to be paid at the convenience store!), and it won’t ruin them. Which is good.
Also, these are a smaller serving size than a normal bottled drink, so they’re a lot easier and faster to finish when you’re on the go. And when you’re walking to the train station in 93 f/34 c heat with 100% humidity, sometimes this is just the right amount of cold jelly-fuel to get you back into the air-conditioned bliss of the train station. Without getting your hands wet from condensation.
There are different versions: some are just a basic fruit juice jelly drinks with flavors like banana or grape, others are a shot of protein, vitamin C, general vitamins, etc. There are also a few for ‘energy’ or with ‘royal jelly’, which seems to be a thing here. Since reading the short story Royal Jelly by Roald Dahl, I’m not to interested in that one or its ‘health benefits’. I prefer to drink the C1000 for vitamin C, since that seems to wake me up.
I have no idea whether these use gelatin or not, as I am still illiterate. But I’ll be finding out soon enough, as I’m embarking on a mission to learn all the food words first. BUT: if you are in Japan and want to try new ‘Japanese things’, definitely try these.