Guide to Genki Studying in Japan

Chalk it up to a simple equation involving roughly 2 weeks of time, 50 pages of yet-unwritten report and 500+ pages of reading material… Blogging just hasn’t been a priority round here lately.

What has been a priority, though, was the quest for any combination of chemical aides, likely to make the required 250 hours of studies in 10 days, a technical, if not quite reasonable health-wise, possibility.

Thus, in the spirit of killing two heart-attacks with one stone, and without further ado, the first episode of:

Dr Dave’s Guide to Chemically-Enhanced Studying in Japan

Volvic Mineral Water

volvic tagline: “Water blah blah blah spring blah blah blah volcanoes blah blah blah…”
contains: Not much beside oxygen and hydrogen atoms paired in ones and twos. Some residual minerals (calcium, magnesium…), perhaps a few drops of deer pee, if you’re lucky…
tastes: Pretty bland, one must say, but I hear that’s sort of the selling point of this “water” thing.
energy factor: 1/10
observations: No discernible effect, beside an irresistible urge to run naked down the side of the nearest extinct volcano. Does shit-all to wake you up. Sure it refreshes, but that’s about it… Was worth a try.

Nescafé President Instant Coffee

Picture nescafe tagline: “A precious cup with brilliant aroma, lively body and fulfilling taste delivers you a beautiful time.”
contains: Caffeine (roughly 60 mg/cup, a cursory Google search tells us)
tastes: Pretty nasty (that’s instant coffee, what do you expect), but still marginally better than this generic coffee brand I got last week (the one where they dehydrate both juice and socks into a powder)…
energy factor: 6/10 (3 cups later)
observations: Caffeine is a sure value, been doing the trick for millennia now.
Only major downside is that, in order to reach an efficient caffeine threshold, the amount of coffee one has to ingest is usually enough to pierce through a few layers of internal organs all the way to your toes. Something you usually cannot do more than once a week.

Red Bull Extra

Picture red_bull_extra tagline: “คือเครื่องดื่มให้กำลังงานของทุกคนที่ต้องการรู้สึกตื่นตัวทั้งทางร่างกาย และจิตใจไม่ว่าที่ไหน และเมื่อไหร่”
contains: My Thai is a bit rusty, the official website tells us: น้ำดำอัดลม 1 กระป๋องมีคาเฟอีน ประมาณ 46 มิลลิกรัม + Red Bull Extra มีคาเฟอีนสกัดอยู่ประมาณ 50 มิลลิกรัม + กาแฟกระป๋องพร้อมดื่ม มีคาเฟอีนอยู่ ประมาณ 74 – 212 มิลลิกรัม… Which I translate by: a shitload of Taurine, Caffeine and probably Guarana or some other generic herbal stimulant, plus enough sugar to kill any diabetic within a mile.
tastes: Like non-carbonated Red Bull.
energy factor: 8/10 (2 cans later), but tolerance building quickly.
observations: Despite the approximative rip-offish design and less-than-convincing color scheme, these seem to be somewhat related to the real thing, or at least legally licensed.
They indeed do the work: something like two times stronger than classic red-bulls, enough to give a kick, even to someone who used to drink a dozen of these a day.
Unfortunately, the main drawback of Red Bull is a very fast tolerance building, requiring ever higher doses to stay afloat, let alone improve your condition (kinda like smack, really). The limited supply (8 cans kindly brought back from Thailand by the lovely Jasmine and Felix at the beginning of the Summer) and the impossibility to find these at reasonable price around here, disqualified what could have been a likely winner for our contest.

ウコンの力 [Behold! the Power of the Turmeric]

Picture ukon_no_chikara tagline:元気に乾杯!”
contains: Turmeric. lotsa.
tastes: Kinda like medication (tangy, orange-ish).
energy factor: 2/10 (1 dose later)
observations: Eventually taking my quest to the local combini, I started with this one, since its rather unambiguous name and the promise that I’d be “drinking to my health” assuaged fears I could mistakenly buy one of the recent get-slim-fast crapola overcrowding every single freaking diet-supplement stores in Japan. The whole concept of Power of the Turmeric being, you guessed it, Turmeric…
A closer look at home taught me that, while Turmeric (a.k.a. Curcumin) is widely considered Good For You™ and efficient at warding off a number of ailments (chlamydia, gonorrhea, melanoma, colo-rectal cancers…) it is also: “good to help you feel refreshed upon wake-up, after a night of partying and/or drinking”. Which is great, if I actually had a second to go drink these days. Low expectations and accordingly low results: didn’t kill me, but hardly helped staying awake. Not an ounce of a working buzz. Give me my chemical stimulants full of nasty artificial molecules back.
special note: there also was a 「ニンニクの力」But even the perspective of growing a second brain wouldn’t have me drinking powdered garlic extract.

リゲイン3000 [Regain 3000]

Picture regain_3000.JPG tagline:疲れた体に効果的
contains: 30mg Liverall (“リバオール”), 10mg Vitamin and a whooping 3000mg Taurine!
tastes: Actually drinkable (this coming from somebody who thinks Red Bull tastes awesome).
energy factor: 6/10 (1 can-size bottle)
observations: Had much higher hopes for this one, seeing how it seems to be roughly pure taurine with a bunch of feel-good vitamin round it. Of course, having a name eerily similar to a known hair-loss medication did nothing to help its appeal, but then again, when you live in a country where half the vending-machines will sell you cans of drinks reading “Calf piss“, you learn not to pay attention to such stuff.
Of course, by now, compounded effects are to be taken in account, but as far as I can tell, this is one of the more efficient ones: energy levels are up, motivation and focus seem increased. If I hadn’t started writing this useless post in the meantime, I might even be tempted to start writing equations now.

ブラクリゲイン [Black Regain]

Picture black_regain tagline:会議に、ドライブに、夜ふかしに:シャキッと喝!
contains:: Buncha token vitamins (B1, B2, B6) and caffeine: 150mg.
tastes: Positively foul. Apparently meant to emulate the taste of real coffee.
energy factor: 8/10 (1 can-size bottle, taken shortly after bottle of Regain 3000)
observations: Black Regain seems to be to Regain what the Black Mamba is to Mambo: much more dangerous, deadlier, and way harder to dance with. Following the successful run with the “3000” version, and relying on heart-murdering dosage of good ol’ caffeine, I suspected we had winner material here. And indeed we do.
Ten minutes after ingestion, uncontrollable twitching appears, along with compulsion to get up and walk around in circle while mumbling incoherently and grinding teeth. Meanwhile, persistent burning sensation in the lower belly seems to indicate that the active ingredients are currently dissolving the outer membrane of my stomach.
No sleepiness whatsoever subsides. Goal achieved.


Regain (both 3000 and Black) come as the clear winner for today’s batch of tests. Of course, further research will be conducted, with the assistance of our local combini and Japan’s seemingly endless market for brain-screwing, productivity-enhancing substances. Among the next items on our list: a double blind comparative study with pure-grade methamphetamin. As soon as I’m done with the construction of my homemade meth-lab.

It is now time to resume studying (I’ll be on it as soon as that problem with the flashing yellow dots dancing in my field of vision subsides a little) but feel free to send your suggestions (restricted to substances legally available in the greater Tokyo area) and we will make sure to include them in our next report.

Update: Seems like a trendy topic… Just a few days after I posted this: look what’s on Lifehacker!


  1. Red bull has now been made illegal in Japan. About 7 weeks ago the law was passed. Not sure on reason but suspect is related to protecting the local Regain market.. (but that is just my cynical nature)

    BYW are you still in Japan?

  2. new to wp, and just wanted to say that you are sooooo smart. thanks for all the goodies, i hope i can install them well!!

  3. Tracey: Really? didn’t hear about that ban… interesting… do you have any more info or some links? I wonder on what ground they could ban it, though, since there are products (e.g. Regain) with exactly the same composition, if not more…

    BTW, it would appear that Kratingdaeng[-L] is what I want to be looking for. It’s basically the original “Thai Red Bull”, which my ignorant self had always considered a “red bull rip-off”, except it’s exactly the opposite (more on that in another post). Anyway, being a super traditional Thai drink, I bet it is available in most Thai import stores, even in Japan…

    Anybody with tips on where to find one of these in the close vicinity of my house (Shinjuku?) will gain my eternal gratitude…
    I fear “International” food stores won’t do: we need specifically Thai food store…

    and yea, still in Japan, until Thursday… bit busy as you can see… can try to grab some coffee before I leave… Otherwise it’ll be in much nicer conditions, when I come back in two weeks.

    MJ: didn’t see that one (only regular, 3000 and black)… know what’s in it? Will look for it…

    Jen: thanks. you’re too kind.

  4. me lame-o survived really hard study times on regular coffeine pills from the drug store … that was before red bull came out … I recall that I called red bull when I was in New York, when they will come to the US and at that time they were testing the west coast .. by now it is everywhere … great gummi bear flavor …

    somehow i never had to try those japanese siblings … but they sure sound fun

    (oh, tried the thai stuff once .. besides ‘hey, where are the bubbles’ I did not feel a difference)

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