Today is the final entry in our week of wacky Japanese sodas. We’ve seen some good drinks, and we’ve seen some mediocre drinks… but how low does the bar go? What kind of sodas fill the dregs of Japanese beveragedom? Today we’ll look at novelty beverages that should probably have never been made.
If you can read the katakana on the image, you are probably already beginning to wretch, and if not, you can guess from the label what this one is: Ikasumi (squid ink) Ramune. Ikasumi, or squid ink, is not an uncommon novelty flavor, and is not so bad actually. I’ve seen ikasumi curry, ikasumi ice cream, and all kinds of other ink-flavored dishes. It doesn’t have the distinct fishy flavor you might be expecting it to have, but it does have a slight, unique bitterness. While I never had any problems with other novelty ikasumi foods (ikasumi soft-serve was actually fairly enjoyable), it does not work at all as a sugary drink. The problem is not the flavor, because all you can really taste is the sugary syrup which overpowers anything else… but just the image of a slimy squid sliding down your throat on a hot summer’s day is not a good way to cool off. Fried squid on a stick? Yes. Sweetened squid juice in a bottle? No.
While probably the most unappetizing to look at, Ikasumi Ramune was still nowhere near the worst soft drink I have ever had in Japan. That honor goes to the final entry in our series:
Nothing can prepare you for the unpleasant “shock” that Menthol Shock delivers. The worst part of all is this is exactly the type of drink you would expect to be refreshing and cool on those humid Japanese summer days where the heat just bears down on you. That is exactly what I thought when I excitedly picked this one up off the shelf and eagerly waited to try it. I’m sure many others like me were lured by the cool and refreshing image, only to have that shocked out of them when tasting this. This soda is so packed with menthol flavor that you can feel it freezing your throat and even your stomach, as it sits in you, refusing to be digested because your body just doesn’t want it… It took me a long time to finish a whole bottle of this, because drinking it was just so painful and unpleasant, and I wasn’t sure I could even keep it down. That, of course, made it all the worse, because as the drink warmed up in the summer heat, the warm menthol flavor grew worse and worse.
Menthol Shock might make an awesome prank gift, or perhaps a household cleaner, but unless you want a stomach ache and the strongest smelling breath you’ve ever had, stay away.
This wraps up our series on wacky Japanese sodas. If you should happen to find yourself in Japan during the summer, make sure you visit your local convenience store to see what seasonal drinks are available. Who knows what crazy new sodas will come out this year?