So, you think you know soda? Think again! Ramune is the summer soda of choice and is the defacto soda flavor in the country of Japan. It’s not the taste of Pepsi or Coke, oh no! Those are cola flavors, not soda! The fun drink gained popularity overseas for its novel marble seal and the difficulty in drinking it. Let’s take a bit of a rest in the shade and give some appreciation to the Japanese sensation Ramune.
A Brief History of Ramune
Ramune actually gets its name from an odd mispronunciation of the word Lemonade. Give it a try! Ra-mu-ne. Le-mon-nade. With the right slant, you can hear how it fits. There’s actually a whole linguistic phenomenon known as Wesei-Eigo that this word falls under, but we shall save that rabbit hole for another outing. The soda and its iconic marble seal came from overseas via Alexander Cameron Sim in Kobe. He originally sold it as Mabu Soda (Marble Soda) and it was advertised as a preventative for cholera of all things. It’s still very popular to this day, and retains that lemon/lime, almost lemonade flavor of the original.
The marble seal is known as a Codd-neck bottle, which involves placing a marble on a rubber seal to keep in the carbonation. It used to be more widespread Europe, India, and Autralia / Oceania. Today, as far as I can tell, only two sodas still use the class Codd-neck: Ramune in Japan and Banta in India. It’s become more of a novelty than a practical sealing solution.
How to Drink Ramune
Drinking Ramune can be a bit of a challenge for the uninitiated. For starters, opening the drink requires a great degree of skill and dexterity. You remove the plastic safety wrapping, take off the removal device and removal device holder, place the removal device on the exposed marble, and slam that baby down as hard as you can to pop the seal. Be careful of splashback, because no matter how you hold it, you’re always in the splash zone.
From there, tilt the bottle slightly so the marble balances in the neck, allowing delicious soda to flow onto your tastebuds. Tipping at too great an angle will lodge that spherical wonder right back where it started, stopping the flow of your fizzy drink in the blink of an eye. There are some varieties of the bottle that have a “cheater neck” with ridges that more securely hold the marble, but we’re not cheaters here, now are we?
Ramune’s original lemon flavor is most prolific, but you can find some great variety of flavors, like watermelon and maple leaf steamed bun. There are also some novelty and gag flavors (or at least I hope they are) like chili garlic and takoyaki, or octopus balls.
When you’re here in Japan for the hot, sticky summer, don’t forget to slam some marbles and drink an ice-cold Ramune to beat that heat and participate in one of the most approachable aspects of Japanese culture around!