Japanese hangover cures for Shinnenkai season

Japanese hangover cures for Shinnenkai season

We try out the four major Japanese hangover remedies so you can get it right the first time
Japanese hangover cures
Kabukicho's adults try to wake up two drunken youths. They will no doubt reach for the nearest Pocari Sweat. (Photo by Flickr user jamesfischer)

The Japanese word for hangover, futsukayoi, translates as "two days drunk," which sounds like a lot more fun than it is. And right about now you should be preparing for some more futsukayoi. The mandatory drinking of December's bonenkai are over, but the New Years' shinnenkai drinking parties are coming up on us fast. Time to learn how to maximize your mandatory drinking without the second-day misery.

Here are four common remedies and our unscientific reports on their effectiveness.

Pocari Sweat: Using ions to battle the hangover

Backstory: Although marketed as a sports drink (a la Gatorade), Japan considers the endearingly named Pocari Sweat as a possible cure-all for ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic exhaustion.

Japanese hangover curesPocari Sweat (Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobowen/" target="_blank">Bob Owen</a>)Supposed effect: While it may not instantly transform you from a withered-out husk of a human being into a superstar athlete, Pocari Sweat can help to re-hydrate a hangover by resupplying some of those precious minerals and electrolytes shamelessly burned away while partying.

Convenience factor: Widely available at vending machines, convenience stores and supermarkets.

Actual effectiveness: Knock back a few aspirin with a 500ml bottle of Pocari Sweat and expect mild-to-moderate hangover relief.

Personal experience: The two-liter bottle of Pocari Sweat has been my pillar of strength in numerous post-apocalyptic situations.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Miso soup: The old-fashioned culinary solution

Backstory: If you can’t bring yourself to crawl out of the house, or if you simply prefer a natural alternative to drinking something with the word sweat in its name, then make for the nearest kitchen. The classic Japanese folk remedy for a really bad hangover is good ol' miso soup.

Japanese hangover curesMiso soup (Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart_spivack/" target="_blank">stu_spivack</a>)Supposed effect: Miso is chock full of beneficial bacteria, enzymes and nutrients that can help undo some of the damage you've wrought upon yourself. For additional proteins and amino acids, add some shijimi clams to the broth and consider a side dish of umeboshi plums.

Convenience factor:
Making it while hungover is nearly impossible so rely on a cohabitant -- parent, romantic partner or friend.

Effectiveness: A mere bowl of miso soup may not turn off that pulverizing jackhammer of a headache, but your body will want to thank you for doing something healthy for a change.

Personal experience:
Purely optional, but always appreciated when offered.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Green Tea: Antioxidants to the rescue

Backstory: The most Japanese of all beverages. Bitter, yet refreshing.

Japanese hangover curesGreen tea (Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kankan/" target="_blank">Kanko*</a>)Supposed effect: I hate to sound like a holier-than-thou drip that works at the health food store, but green tea is high in antioxidants and will help detoxify a broke-down liver a lot better than the self-destructive option of "the hair of the dog that bit you." It may also help with that headache and nausea too. Although be warned: most Japanese green tea also contains a fair amount of caffeine, which won’t help someone who just wants to sleep a hangover off.

Convenience factor: Available in cold form everywhere and incredibly easy to brew even with a nasty, grating hangover.

Effectiveness: Subtle, yet substantial. The stimulating side effects may also help you to walk upright like a triumph of evolution instead of just lying in state all day.

Personal experience:
I drink a lot of green tea in-between gulps of Pocari Sweat. I’ve yet to try and mix the two like a kid at a soda fountain, but it is bound to happen eventually.

Rating:3 out of 5

Ukon no Chikara: Preventative potions

Japanese convenience stops and drug stores are crawling with specialty formulated elixirs and magic potions that may, or may not, help you side step the knockout blow of a Mike Tyson-power hangover. One of the most popular of the bunch is Ukon no Chikara.

Japanese hangover curesUkon no Chikara (Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jetalone/" target="_blank">jetalone</a>)Supposed effect: The company PR claims the mixture of turmeric, vitamins E, B6 and god-knows-what-else "helps the lifestyle of busy business and socializing people" (read: "boozehounds"). The name means "the power of turmeric," and it is supposedly an extract of this South Asian herb that gives Ukon its clout in the hangover prevention stakes by improving liver function.

Convenience factor:
Pick up a pack from a convenience store before the binge.

Effectiveness: The main question is one of timing. Some prefer to down a bottle before the binge begins, others before they go to sleep, while some hedge their bets by guzzling two 100ml bottles of Ukon in a single outing. Experiment with your own body chemistry to yield the best results.

Personal Experience: Like all stamina drinks, counting on Ukon no Chikara to bail you out of a hangover is a risky affair. Sometime it will perform miracles, other times it will be about as useful as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (but only when it works).