It seems obvious, but “when does water stop being water?” can be a tricky question to answer.
In recent years the near-water trend has hit Japan. The term “near-water” in Japan is just another way of saying flavored water. What started out as occasional novelty flavors like orange, lemon, and peach blossomed into an entire genre of beverage that now take up entire shelves.
If you’re like me, you may have come across these near waters completely by accident since their bottles look almost identical to regular water. The drink itself also looks just like plain old water, but the difference is apparent when after an intense work out on a hot day you take a swig only to end up with the sensation of a mouthful of yogurt.
For that reason, I’m inclined to say that near-water is not water. By adding flavor it ceases to have that same clean and refreshing quality that water does.
▼ The I Lohas brand of flavored waters are especially deceptive with extremely similar labeling. (Peach flavor on the left, regular water on the right.)
▼ Under certain circumstances they are landmines of undesired flavor.
Our Japanese writer P.K. Sanjun is also in this camp. A hardcore water drinker who draws the line at carbonated and shuns even tea, he wouldn’t give near-water the time of day, dismissing it as just another flavored drink along the lines of Hi-C or Kool-Aid.
But recently P.K. had his mind blown after meeting a woman who saw near-water completely differently. Here’s what she had to say.
“As a rule I never buy regular water – just like I would never eat white rice without some sort of seasoning or side dish. Why would you pay money for water unless it has had some kind of flavor added to it? If I pay for it, I want to be able to taste it. Near-water is just delicious water.”
It’s food for thought. However, taking her argument further, you could make the claim that Coca-Cola is just enhanced water – enhanced to the point it can trigger a diabetic coma, but enhanced water nonetheless. That’s an extreme case but I would still argue that if the sun was blazing down most people would not consider soaking a cloth in some chilled peach-flavored I Lohas to cool down. Therefore it is not water.
I guess in the end, where the line between water and not water lies in the individual. P.K. says nothing more than carbonation can be added to water and I’m not sure I would even go that far. We’re all unique little snowflakes in that regard and perhaps we’ll just have to learn to agree to disagree on this matter.
Then again, there was that “Sleep Water” that came out a few months back. Sounds to me like that stuff tastes like the gunk that builds up in the corner of your eye and I think we can all agree that would be just nasty.
[ Read in Japanese ]