Is Japan Ready To Stop Ignoring Dr Pepper?

For years, Dr Pepper was never popular in Japan. If Japanese people wanted to drink cola, they'd have a Coke or maybe even a Pepsi. The Texas-born soft drink never caught on. But decades after going on sale in Japan, that's starting to change.

Dr Pepper is quickly becoming the fizzy drink for otaku, thanks to Steins; Gate. It shouldn't be surprising that it's a visual novel born on the Xbox 360 that is making the beverage popular in Japan. Steins; Gate, a sci-fi visual novel with a psychological spin, debuted on the Xbox 360 back in 2009. It's since been ported to Windows and the PSP, and an anime version debuted this spring.

Some fans are praising the anime version, saying that it's a smart and interesting take on time travel. The show features a microwave that is able to send text messages to the past. There's a mad scientist named Rintaro Okabe, some brainy otaku girls, cosplayers, an overweight super hacker, slimy green bananas and Dr Pepper, which is referred to as an "intellectual drink". Out of all the things on the show, it's the Dr Pepper that seems somewhat out of place.

Dr Pepper was introduced in Japan in 1973, making it just in time for the country's fastfood boom, but late to the soft drink party. Japan had already produced its own carbonated soft drinks for nearly a hundred years. Coca-cola got its start in Japan in the Post World War II era, after being a mainstay on American military bases.

During the 1960s, Coke started being advertised on Japanese television, and the sugary brown fizz found its niche in Japan. Coca-Cola was aggressive in Japan, not only protecting its own soda foothold, but later expanding to bottling Japanese teas and other juices.

Dr Pepper, with its 23 flavors, is an odd tasting drink. As someone who grew up in Texas and who treasured getting the drink with real imperial sugar as a kid, instead of fructose corn syrup, there is a nostalgic factor for me. Whenever I want to remember what it's like to sit under the hot Texas summer sun watching baseball, I'll buy a Dr Pepper. Thing is, in some parts of the country, the drink isn't readily available like its rivals. Thus, heading to places like Costco can end up being Dr Pepper runs more than anything.

The vast majority of people in Japan do not grow up with Dr Pepper. The most common complaint is that it tastes like medicine, which makes sense because, like many sodas, it started in a Texas pharmacy.

That isn't to say Dr Pepper hasn't been tried in Japan before. Colorful cans from graphic artist Rockin' Jelly Bean were a good effort back in 2006.

But thanks to Steins; Gate, the beleaguered beverage is finding its long overdue welcome in Japan. On the show, the drink is "Dk Pepper" instead of "Dr Pepper" for copyright issues. Forrest Gump style Pepper placement, this ain't.

This is the best publicity it's probably ever had in Japan, especially in geek mecca Akihabara, where Steins;Gate is set. For example, Akiba Blog reports that the vending machine in front of retailer Sangatsu Usagi is now completely filled with Dr Pepper. Inside one of the Sangatsu Usagi shops, there are even various types of Dr Pepper, such as Dr Pepper bottled in Japan to American Dr Pepper. Little placards point out that this is the drink from Steins;Gate, meaning this could all be part of some very clever promotion.

Whatever it is, it seems to be working with Sangatsu Usagi reporting Dr Pepper sell outs in its vending machine out front. Fans of the anime are even trying the drink, pointing out that its pretty good once you get used to the flavor. I'm a Pepper fan, but is Japan? Not quite, but this latest push is resulting in a handful of otaku cola converts.



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    Hmm. No other Aussies? Bueller?

    Oh well, more for me then!

    I miss Dr. Pepper.

    Love this stuff, lucky I have a place that sells it for $1.20 a can near me!

    I found it a lot easier to find Dr Pepper in Japan than Australia...

    i wish the jerks didn't stop selling it in Aus, i used to buy the 1.25ltr bottles all the time, now you can only get it at a few places that import it, and it cost 2.50 a can on average, i miss my favorite drink

      Agreed, wtb it back. If any of the fast food joints put it in like some US places have then thats the only place i'd go.

      2.50 a can sucks, but it does keep it more special.

    Does it bother anyone that Dr Pepper is not a doctor, and that the 'cola' tastes like medicine, which might be why its a distant third or worse in the cola race?

      I absolutely love the taste of cough medicine, so... :P

        you know MR Waffle, I just cant get it. I get that people like it, just don't know how. I like chillies and many exotic spices, but dr pepper, really? guess its like the famous vanilla coke experiment, that I like, but looks like the market doesnt.

    brian ashcraft = otaku

    Why exactly is this a story here? I fail to see the relevance.Disappointing to see what is essentially a full page advertorial for Dr Pepper on Kotaku.

    I can't imagine anyone over the age of 13 being nostalgic for a product that's been available in this country for less than 15 years. And that, to paraphrase Letterman, tastes like 'liquid manure'.

    I love Dr.Pepps.. hurts me belly though.

    Dr Pepper never took off in Australia either. Tried to and died after a few years because it tastes like crap.

    It was a wise choice on the part of the Australian public to steer clear of this beverage. It is probably an acquired taste, but why would anyone want to put up with the acquisition process?

      Now now, having an acquired taste is important in many things such as wine, where you begin to discover the layered richness of flavours mere grapes can provide.

      But in the context of a soft-drink which has a dumb and shallow flavour, there is no need to acquire anything, it's either crap or good.

      ... and quite frankly Dr.Pepper is crap.

    Dr Pepper is a cola? I always thought it was more like sarsaparilla.

    USA foods in Moorabbin (Vic) have its for $30 a slab (24 cans) they also have a Dr Pepper marinade thats awesome on chicken wings!

    Dr pepper may have been a miss when it launched in '97 (it was 97 wasn't it? cause i remember that being a good year for me), but it must sell pretty reasonably now, i see it all the time at confectionery stores.

    I love me some Dr. Pepper! I, too, was a regular preveyour of USA Foods in morabin until moving over here. Now there is a vending machine literarly 5 meters from my door with Dr. Pepper for 100 yen :D

    Dr. Pepper is the American vegemite. I grew up drinking it (being American), so I like the taste just fine. I don't particularly miss having it. I can take it or leave it. Most people trying it later in life hate it, though. I can't stand vegemite, but my Aussie husband loves the stuff. *shrug*

    I don't have a huge rant because licorice tastes terrible to me, Dr Pepper tastes great for me though.If you don't like it it's because of you not the drink, why would they sell something that tastes like shit intentionally?

    It was in the film Summer Wars as "Dr. Pepper" semi-recently with every detail of the can lovingly drawn.

    I'm glad that you shared this helpful info with us,keep doing your great job.

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