The Origin of Ramune

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  • It’s a hot, muggy summer day, waves of heat are radiating off of the concrete ground. The streets are packed with throngs of people reveling to one of Japan’s many boisterous festivals (祭り matsuri).

    Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a street vendor touting his drinks. At first there seems nothing out of the ordinary, just a normal street cart, but then you see people pushing an oddly shaped bottle cap onto the similarly oddly shaped blue bottle, watching in glee as the top shoots into the bottle. The sign on the cart reads “ラムネ Ramune”.

    What is Ramune?

    Ramune2

    Ramune, this flavor ubiquitous in Japan, would be no stranger to anyone who has visited the land of the Rising Sun. It comes in the form of soda, popsicles, or candy, all in its trademark blue. However, the roots of the original Ramune soda still remain a mystery. It is believed to have been brought from foreign lands by the British in the 1800s as lemonade, and thereby earned the moniker “Ramune”. The classic version is lemon-lime flavor à la Sprite, but of course, there is a range of variants such as melon, bubblegum, green apple etc., and even curry and takoyaki flavors for more adventurous palettes!

    characteristics

    Ramune4

    Ramune5

    However, besides its distinct taste and color, the bottle that it comes in is equally noteworthy. Half the fun actually lies in popping the bottle! It’s almost a mandatory experience for anyone visiting Japan to have a go at the signature bottle sealed with a glass marble called a ビー玉 B-dama. After guzzling the delicious drink, the glass marble and bottle make for a simple yet delightful toy. As an interesting side fact, the bottleneck was designed by a mechanical engineer by the name of Codd, and only the original Ramune soda bottles use it! Similar sodas which are not bottled as such are more commonly known as “サイダー cider” in convenience stores throughout Japan. Even though the original Ramune bottled sodas are not readily available at convenience stores, they are still being sold in certain supermarkets and during matsuris. It’s a sunny, beautiful summer afternoon. What could be better than cracking open a sparkly, sweet cold soda that captures the hearts of children and adults alike? :)