For a tiny island nation, Japan is quite the worldwide trendsetter in matters of food and drink. Here are four Japanese innovations that we wish would drift over stateside.

1. Beauty drinks: The U.S. is starting to get into the “nutraceuticals” game with the advent of yogurts that promise better digestion (and are promptly sued for same). But we’ve got nothing on Japan, with its thriving industry of drinks and other products containing ingredients like collagen and various antiaging amino acids. A company called Kabaya (site is in Japanese) even makes collagen gummy candies, and there are several producers of collagen marshmallows. I’d like to have them around to offer them to guests. “Want some marshmallows?” I will offer. “Um, no thanks,” my guest will answer. “But they have collagen!” I’ll say tantalizingly.

2. Far-out flavors of ordinary foodstuffs: PepsiCo is all the time introducing limited-edition flavors in Japan, and damn it, we want equal treatment. Baobab Pepsi? Ice Cucumber (pictured)? Shiso? Yogurt flavor? Kit Kat is also more adventurous in Japan, with flavors at various times including soy sauce, lemon vinegar, grilled corn (yum), and Camembert.

3. Jelly drinks: Chunky drinks haven’t really caught on yet in America. But maybe they will when we all find out that there are ready-to-drink coffee and tea jelly drinks. Kirin makes one of the most popular canned coffee jelly drinks, Kirin FIRE Coffee Jelly (site is in Japanese), and Starbucks Japan occasionally offers a coffee jelly drink that I’m desperate to try.

4. Draft-beer vending machines: We all know there are vending machines in Japan that dole out everything from curry to used underpants. Draft beer is a wonderful, wonderful thing to vend.

Dr. Smoothie collagen drink image source: drsmoothiebrands.com

Pepsi Ice Cucumber image source: Flickr member tenaciousme under Creative Commons

Starbucks jelly coffee image source: Flickr member Kojach under Creative Commons

Draft-beer vending machine image source: Flickr member simon.c under Creative Commons

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