U.S. Water News Online
TOKYO -- With more and more people drinking bottled water
for health and beauty reasons, the number of brands on sale in Japan
has increased to more than 500.
At Rgath, a bar specializing in bottled water in Yebisu Garden
Place in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, customers can choose from 31 different
types, including water sourced from an oasis in the United Arab
''As people travel overseas more, the custom of enjoying different
types of bottled water has been spreading,'' said manager Matsuhiko
Namba. Customers often come in and ask for ''something different,''
Equally, they might ask for a specific brand favored by a popular
model, or a brand said to be good for dieting.
Bottled water is generally classified according to the degree of
''hardness.'' Simply put, hardness measures the amount of minerals,
such as magnesium and calcium, in the water. The more minerals it
contains, the harder it is.
In Europe, extremely hard water, such as ''Contrex,'' which has a
hardness of more than 1,500, is available.
On the other hand, most water in Japan is soft water, with a
hardness of less than 100.
In the past, Japanese consumers tended to shun hard water, as it
was perceived to stick in the throat and leave an astringent taste in
Instead, they preferred soft water that is smooth and pleasant to
the taste. In recent years, however, hard water has become
increasingly popular, especially among young women, as its health and
beauty benefits have drawn attention.
In fact, the number of customers ordering hard water has increased
at Rgath, said Namba.
''The rising popularity of hard water is a sign that bottled water
has become a part of life in Japan,'' said Hikari Hayakawa, a film
director and author of several books on bottled water.
''When wine was first introduced in Japan, light wines were
preferred to astringent ones. But as wine drinking spread,
full-bodied wines have become more popular,'' said Hayakawa.
In fact, the consumption of bottled water has been increasing in
It surged from 87,100 kiloliters in 1982 to 414,800 kl in 1993 and
to 1,374,500 kl in 2002, according to the Japan Mineral Water
Per-capita consumption rose from 0.7 liter in 1982 to 3.3 liters
in 1993 and to 10.8 liters in 2002, posting a more than 15-fold
increase in 20 years.
''People no longer have resistance to paying money for water,''
said Takuji Hanahara, managing director of the association.
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