There are many things that symbolize Japanese feelings of nostalgia and ramune is probably one of them. At one time, the bottles were made of glass but in recent years the materials have been changed to the same plastic as that used for PET bottles. What has not changed are the indentations in the middle of the bottle and the marble that rattles around while drinking. The National Federation of Soft Drink Cooperative Associations designates ramune as a “bottled carbonated drink sealed with a marble.” Nevertheless, when the original ramune first went on sale, it was not a marble that sealed the bottle.
Ramune arrived in Japan in 1853 together with Commodore Perry’s ships. In 1868, ramune shops were already in business. The first ramune bottles used a cork stopper. However, because the pressure from the carbonated gas within the bottle would push the cork out, the cork stopper alone was not enough. A wire was therefore used to hold the cork stopper in place. In addition, various measures were also taken to prevent the carbonated gas from escaping, such as moistening the cork stopper and laying the bottles on their sides.
The ramune bottles around this time tapered at the top and bottom and were light green in color. As such, they resembled cucumbers and were referred to as “cucumber bottles.” These so-called cucumber bottles were used from the latter half of the 1860s to the latter half of the 1880s.
In 1872, an Englishman by the name of Hiram Codd invented a ramune bottle that used a marble as the stopper. Using a marble stopper enabled the bottle to be sealed by the pressure of the carbonated gas and also prevented the carbonated gas from escaping. Moreover, the bottles could be washed and used again and again. It is said that these bottles came into general use in Japan from around 1888.
Do you know how this marble was used to seal the bottle?
First, the bottle was stood upright with the marble stopper in the down position. The ramune bottle was filled with ramune. The bottle was then quickly turned upside down so that the pressure from the carbonated gas forced the marble against the gasket in the neck of the bottle effectively sealing the bottle in a very simple manner.
However, using this method where the bottle was turned upside down often caused the ramune to spill out. As a result, it is said that the amount of ramune in the bottles at that time were different depending on the bottle.
In the sealing method used nowadays, the bottles are not turned over. A method has been developed where the marble seals the bottle while the bottle is standing upright. While still retaining the feel and shape as before, the bottle has been improved without us realizing it.