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Japanese Food Article

    The Rise of Drinking Yogurt in Japan

    You’re probably familiar with regular yogurt – that thick, creamy dairy food that’s good for you. But have you ever tried drinking your yogurt? This drink is becoming increasingly popular in Japan these days. More and more health-conscious people are choosing these probiotic-rich drinks over traditional one because of the same gut health benefits, but in a convenient, portable format. In this article, we’ll explore why this drink is so popular in Japan – its health benefits and its origin.

    What is Yogurt Drink?

    Drinking yogurt is a liquid version of regular, spoonable yogurt. Manufacturers take fermented yogurt and blend it until it has a smooth, pourable texture. They then add sweeteners, such as fruit juice or syrup, to enhance the flavour.

    Despite the thinner consistency, it contains the same healthy probiotics as regular one. The live cultures can still help support good digestion and immunity. Japanese love drinking yogurt for its convenience and variety of flavours. It’s easy to sip on the go, unlike spooning regular yogurt. And the range of fruity or dessert-inspired flavours appeals to those who find plain yogurt too tart. While some prefer traditional one, drinking yogurt offers a unique, portable way to get probiotics and dairy nutrients.

    History of Yogurt in Japan

    Yogurt and the cow figure

    The Birth of Yogurt in Japan: Chichiyasu Yogurt

    In 1917, the dairy company Chichiya, famous for its “Chi-chan” brand, made history by introducing Japan’s first packaged yogurt product – Chichiyasu Yogurt. This was a significant milestone in the country’s yogurt history. While there were some ancient dairy products such as “raku” from the Asuka period and “gyonyugu” from the Meiji period that were similar to yogurt, Chichiyasu Yogurt was the first commercially available packaged yogurt to hit the Japanese market.

    Chichiyasu Yogurt was a sugared, bottled variety that was considered a premium, almost medicinal product at the time. It quickly became popular with Japanese consumers. Interestingly, Chichiyasu Yogurt is available in two different types of packaging, depending on the region. In western Japan, the iconic trapezoidal plastic cup is the original, homemade container. In eastern Japan, the yogurt is produced by Kujiraiya Dairy and comes in a four-cup package.

    The different containers may contribute to slight differences in taste, with the western trapezoid version being tangier and more refreshing, and the eastern four-cup version being creamier and richer. This could be due to the “post-fermentation” style of yogurt production, where the shape of the container influences the final flavor. Taste differences aside, the packaging itself holds a special place in the hearts of Chichiyasu yogurt fans. The trapezoidal “Chi-chan” cup, with its slightly different face each time due to shrinkage of the film, adds to the artisanal feel and nostalgia associated with this iconic Japanese yogurt brand.

    Drinking Yogurt’s Launch in Japan

    The 1970s marked a significant milestone in the history of yogurt in Japan with the introduction of the country’s first “drinkable” yogurt product. In 1970, Nisshin York launched the groundbreaking Tokachi Drinkable Yogurt.
    Prior to this, yogurt had not been widely consumed in Japan. The introduction of Tokachi Drinkable Yogurt changed that. This product is now a popular, high-volume, and affordable drinkable yogurt in the country. Thanks to that, it is the first of its kind in the Japanese market.
    The current “Tokachi Drinkable Yogurt” is a functional food that improves gut health with the NY1301 lactic acid bacteria strain. The product has been made lighter in texture by reducing the fat content, making it easy to consume like a lactic acid drink.
    It’s interesting to note that the term “drinkable yogurt” was used because the concept of “drinking yogurt” did not exist in Japan at the time. It wasn’t until 1980, 10 years after the launch of “York”, that Meiji Luna first used the term “drinkable yogurt”, which then became a common term in the Japanese market.
    The introduction of “Tokachi Drinkable Yogurt” in 1970 was an important milestone in the history of yogurt in Japan. It paved the way for the widespread popularity and acceptance of drinkable yogurt products, which continue to be a staple of the Japanese dairy and beverage landscape.


    Drinking Yogurt and Lactic acid bacteria beverages

    These two drinks, while both fermented dairy products, have some important differences.

    Drinking yogurt is simply softened regular yogurt, with the same ingredients as typical yogurt. Lactic acid bacteria beverages, on the other hand, are a unique Japanese fermented dairy beverage made by adding water, sugar, and flavorings to a yogurt base. An important regulatory difference is that for a lactic acid bacterial beverage to be classified as a “fermented milk lactic acid bacterial beverage,” it must contain at least 3% non-fat milk solids – there is no such minimum requirement for drinking yogurt.

    In addition, lactic acid bacterial beverages can be both live culture and heat pasteurized, while drinking yogurt contains the same live bacterial cultures as regular yogurt. Legally, drinking yogurt is considered a type of yogurt product, while lactic acid bacterial beverages have their own separate classification under Japan’s “Milk and Dairy Products Industries Act”.

    Benefits of Drinking Yogurt

    Drinking Yogurt in glass

    Relieve constipation

    As you know, drinking yogurt is rich in beneficial probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria. It’s known that the intestinal effects of these good bacteria can help relieve constipation. When good bacteria increase and bad bacteria decrease, the bowel becomes more active, which helps prevent constipation.

    Skin Benefits

    Many people get acne or skin blemishes when they are constipated. But when the gut has more good bacteria and bowel movements are regular, skin problems can clear up. As the term ‘gut health’ suggests, when the gut is in good shape, the skin also benefits. This is a pleasant side effect.

    Promote better sleep

    Calcium, which is abundant in milk, is also found in this drink. Calcium deficiency is linked to irritability, so getting enough calcium can help reduce stress and promote better sleep. It also contains tryptophan, which is converted into the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Melatonin can lower body temperature and heart rate to help you fall asleep.

    Lower cholesterol

    Even if you don’t monitor your cholesterol levels closely, you should be aware that high levels can lead to hardening of the arteries. Regular consumption of yogurt can help balance the gut, reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.

    Fat burning

    Consistent consumption helps to cultivate beneficial gut bacteria, which can help to prevent weight gain. Yogurts with Gazell bacteria are particularly effective at reducing visceral fat. Warming drinking yogurt slightly can also improve absorption and increase the benefits – but be careful not to overheat as this can kill the probiotics.

    Recommended Popular Yogurt Brands

    Meiji Probio Yogurt R-1 (Drink Type)

    Meiji R1
    出典: Amazon

    Meiji Probiotic Yogurt R-1 Drink Type offers a delightful combination of mild sweetness and a smooth taste that minimizes acidity, making it a refreshing and enjoyable beverage. Perfect for those looking to boost their daily intake of probiotics, this yogurt drink is both tasty and beneficial to your health.

    Creamy Plain Yogurt Drink

    By yoghurt-freak

    FamilyMart’s Creamy Plain yogurt drink has an incredibly rich and thick, almost shake-like texture. It has a natural, milky sweetness that sets it apart from regular yogurt. You should try adding a hint of lemon-like tartness could make this indulgent yogurt drink even more delicious.

    Shinsapporo Nyugyo

    Hokkai Yogurt Style Drinking Yogurt
    出典: もぐナビ

    Shinssaporo Nyugyo’s “orthodox” drinking yogurt is made with only fresh milk and sugar, offering a natural, rich thickness similar to that of plain yogurt. With a perfect balance of acidity, sweetness, and creaminess, the simple flavor profile pairs well with meals and has a satisfying thickness without being overwhelming. The easy-to-hold packaging rounds out this well-executed take on a classic drinkable yogurt from the Shinssaporo Nyugyo brand.

    Tokimeki Cafe Drinking Yogurt

    出典: もぐナビ

    Tokimeki Cafe Ajiwai and Coke’s drinkable yogurt is made with only milk, brown sugar, and a blend of dairy products that gives it a rich 2.8% milk fat content. With a smooth, milky flavor profile similar to FamilyMart’s popular Creamy Plain yogurt, this indulgent yogurt drink delivers a creamy, decadent mouthfeel. The use of high-quality ingredients that allow the natural sweetness of milk and brown sugar to shine through is a key factor in this product’s success.

    Morinaga Aloe Yogurt

    Aloe Yogurt
    出典: Amazon

    This drinkable yogurt from Morinaga is just as delightful as their popular spoonable “Aloe Yogurt.” With a light, balanced profile that lets the tangy yogurt and soothing aloe notes shine, the result is a crisp, easy-drinking yogurt that avoids any unpleasant aftertaste. Fans of the original spoonable version will love this convenient drinkable rendition that delivers the same great taste.


    Drinkable yogurt is widely available in Japan. You can find it in convenience stores and supermarkets, with many different choices. People like these yogurt drinks because they are good for gut health, helping to provide healthy bacteria that aid digestion. The drinks are easy to drink and have a light texture. As a result, they are very popular in Japan and are an important part of people’s daily nutrition and hydration. How about trying this drink when you have a chance to go to Japan?!

    If you love Japanese drinks, we have some recommendations for you! Click here to find out or see below.

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