Drink enough adult beverages and one day you’re sure to experience “beer googles,” the phenomenon where the person you’re looking at starts to appear more and more attractive after each round.
But is it possible to make yourself better looking through the power of alcohol? Apparently so…
First off, a little bit of linguistic groundwork. While in most English speaking countries “sake” refers to Japanese rice wine, in Japan sake just means alcohol of any type. As a matter of fact, dropping the honorific o- from the more polite osake makes the word sound coarse, as sake has a nuance similar to “booze.”
The correct term for Japanese rice wine is in fact nihonshu, literally “Japanese alcohol.” This may seem like a fine line, but even when you’re going out for a few drinks, you want to maintain a certain level of decorum. It’s what makes the difference between being “the guy in the corner who’s drunk” and “the gentleman in the corner who’s le drunk.”
Another thing we should clear up about nihonshu is its bad rap about causing nasty hangovers. Yes, imbibing nihonshu will increase your body’s levels of ethyl alcohol, which then gets broken down into acetaldehyde, which can really mess you up. You know what else has the same effect? Any alcoholic drink.
▼ Et tu, Ebisu?
Nhonshu horror tales usually come from jet-lagged recent arrivals who mistakenly conclude that since it’s served in small cups it’s meant to be drunk in shots. An order of nihonshu usually comes with a container for several refills of that small cup, and is meant to be sipped at a leisurely pace, rarely if ever without some kind of food accompanying it.
Now that we’ve covered how to ask for and drink nihonshu, let’s talk about why you might want to. Aside from being a tasty beverage, nihonshu contains over 700 nutrients, many of which researchers claim have beautifying benefits.
Nihonshu has more than 10 times the amount of amino acids found in a comparable serving of wine. As the building blocks of proteins from which your skin and hair are made, amino acids have a host of appearance-enhancing effects.
Kojic acid and alpha glucosyl glycerol are also found in nihonshu. Despite the scary name, kojic acid suppresses discoloring agents in the skin, resulting in a more even tone, and greater suppleness. Alpha glucosyl glycerol promotes the production of collagen, which along with the yeasts present in the beverage serves as a moisturizing agent that revitalizes skin cells.
▼ “No way! And here I was just drinking nihonshu because I couldn’t put up with my date’s boring stories anymore!”
Similarly, the amino acids in nihonshu can strengthen your hair and give it a lustrous shine. And before this shift in topic to hair care has our male readers reaching for a beer, nihonshu also contains the molecular compound adenosine, which is thought to promote hair growth and is commonly found in hair loss medications.
▼ Healthy young woman, or mid-forties alcoholic male who drinks a bottle of nihonshu every single day?
Adenosine also has anti-inflammatory effects, which are useful in combatting the stiff shoulders that every Japanese office worker with more than five years on the job is contractually obligated to suffer from and complain about.
Not surprisingly, drinking nohonshu will raise your body temperature, with researchers observing a difference of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Aside from the obvious effect of warding off chills (extra enhanced if you’re drinking atsukan, or hot nihonshu), the higher body temperature improves blood circulation, which researchers cited as helping to carry nutrients throughout the body quickly and reduce stress levels.
However, at this point, we’re starting to notice a suspicious trend to some of the effects being touted. Feeling warm, reduced levels of pain and physical discomfort, lower stress…aren’t these all just symptoms of being, you know, buzzed?
Some researchers pointed out that improved circulation is useful in preventing the onset of dementia. They may have a point, but one source recommends drinking 360 milliliters of nihonshu a day, at which point the alcohol is just about ready to start impacting your speech and reasoning skills all by itself.
Still, the science behind nhonshu’s beauty effects seems solid enough to us, what with our relatively low resistance to finding a reason for a drink. Whereas in the West we say that laughter is the best medicine, Japan has a proverb that goes Osake ha hyakuyaku no cho, or “alcohol is the best medicine.” We recommend combining the two sensibilities and finding a friend to share both some nihonshu and some laughs with this weekend.