From sweet to salty, survey investigates Japan’s favorite shime treats.

In Japanese, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are asagohan, hirugohan, and bangohan. But there’s also an occasional quasi fourth meal of the day: shime.

Shime literally means the close, end, or finish of something, and it’s often applied to capping off a night of drinking by grabbing a quick bite to eat before going home. You could argue, and convincingly, that it’s the most important meal of the day, so what are Japan’s favorite shime foods?

To find out, Japanese restaurant website Hot Pepper conducted a survey with 1,035 users between the ages of 20 and 69. When asked if they usually want to eat shime after going out for deinks, 37.2 percent said yes, and another 22.8 said they don’t have any pre-set for-or-against stance on going for shime before going home.

Hot Pepper then asked survey participants to pick their top three personal favorite shime options, giving three points to their top pick, two points to their second, and one point to their number-three. Then they added everything up, producing the top 10 list here.

10. Udon (127 points)
9. Sherbet (144 points)
8. Onigiri/rice balls (146 points)
7. Soba (159 points)
6. Cake (182 points)

It’s a mix of starchy and sweet foods in this block, with udon and soba noodles (made from wheat and buckwheat, respectively) showing up. Neither is particularly heavy, so they’ll keep a growling stomach from waking you up in the middle of the night and they’re both pretty cheap too, so you should have enough yen left over for a bowl even if you were knocking back drinks in a pricy bar just beforehand. All of those nice things apply to onigiri too, with an additional bonus in that you can grab some to go at any of Japan’s open-24-hours convenience stores (although their already somewhat tricky packaging can be even more of a challenge to open neatly if you’re buzzed).

On the sweet side, sherbet is another easy-to-grab-at-the-convenience store choice, and a refreshing way to end the night if you jus got out a stuffy, sweaty bar or are simply feeling flushed from one too many cocktails. And if we had to hazard a guess about cake, well, honestly, we’re all constantly craving cake, aren’t we? So it makes sense that with alcohol’s ability to erode one’s self-restraint, it would show up on the list,

5. Parfait (228 points)
4. Coffee (294 points)

It’s interesting to see parfait so high on the overall list, since the custom of “Hey, now that we’re liquored up, let’s go get parfaits!” is strongly associated with Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, where you can find plenty of late-night eateries that serve parfaits in and around its Susukino bar district.

Coffee, meanwhile, seems like sort of a misclassification, since after-drinking shime usually conjures up images of food, but the survey organizers put java as one of the candidates, and a lot of people chose it.

3. Ice cream (544 points)
2. Ochazuke (584 points)

There’s a big gap, 250 points, between numbers 4 and 3. Ice cream being the top sweet on the list makes a lot of sense. It’s something a lot of people are more or less craving at all times, is cooling like sherbet, and easier to find late at night in most parts of Japan than a full-blown parfait.

Ochazuke, a bowl of rice with green tea poured over it, has sort of the opposite effect. It’s a light, guilt-free midnight snack, and the warmth of the comforting warmth of the tea creates a cozy invite to slumberland.

And at the top of the list…

1. Ramen (1,160 points)

If you’ve done much drinking with locals in Japan, you probably saw this landslide victory coming. For decades, ramen has been the default, delicious shime choice.

Why? Probably for a couple of reasons. As Japan’s most flavorful but least healthy type of noodles, ramen is already a tempting guilty pleasure, exactly the sort of thing a lot of people have difficulty resisting, or simply no desire to do so in the first place, after a few beers. Second, while big cities in Japan have plenty of late-night restaurants and 24-hour takeout places these days, this wasn’t always the case. Go back a generation or two, and by the time you and your friends stumbled out of a bar at 1 in the morning, the nearby ramen joint might have been the only thing open, making shime ramen a culinary cultural tradition. And rest assured, if you’re in a neighborhood in Japan with a lot of bars, there will be ramen restaurants within walking distance. The symbiotic relationship between bars and ramen restaurants is well established, and is an obvious factor in where ramen chefs choose to open up shop.

One word of caution, though. Deliciousness isn’t the only thing that alcohol and ramen broth have in common. They’re also both contributors to dehydration, so if you do decide, like so many others have before you, to go for shime ramen, you might still want to have a few glasses of water before you go to bed.

Source: PR Times
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso, SoraNews24, Pakutaso (2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he both fondly remembers and deeply regrets getting shime ramen with extra toppings in Kagurazaka.

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