This One-Of-A-Kind Milk Stand Deserves A Spot On Your Japan Bucket List

For most travelers heading to Japan, a bucket list typically includes visiting during the gorgeous cherry blossom season, eating prized Wagyu beef, or soaking in natural hot springs known as onsen baths. Unfortunately, among the endless list of once-in-a-lifetime Japanese experiences, only some can be accomplished in a single trip. However, one experience deserves a spot on everybody's Japan bucket list, no matter how full your itinerary might be: It's nostalgic, it's one-of-a-kind, and it's Akihabara's milk stand in Tokyo.

Although it may be strange by Western standards, this milk stand is actually located underground at Akihabara Subway Station. So whether you're simply passing through or stopping at Akihabara to experience its renowned hub of Japan's otaku culture, this milk stand's strategic location makes it a convenient stop. Moreover, it allows visitors to travelerblog Japan while enjoying a unique local treat, accomplishing two things simultaneously and freeing up more room on that bucket list!

The milk stand is on platform 5 of the Sobu line train. Once you get there, you will see ミルクスタンド (Milk Stand). If you are having trouble, just kindly ask a local, "Mirukusutando wa dokodesu ka?" (Where is the milk stand?). Someone will surely point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that there are actually two milk stands (different companies with similar selections), the other one, Milk Shop Luck Akihabara, being on platform 6. Although there are two here, only a few exist in Tokyo, making this a rare treat not to be missed.

[Image by nakashi via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 2.0]

Hokkaido milk: A Japanese delicacy

The Japanese and their on-the-go consumer relationship with milk can be attributed to several factors. The first is for its unmatched quality and flavor. Japanese milk, especially that from Hokkaido (an island of Japan that's a great winter destination for skiing and snowboarding), is a national pride, with the region alone responsible for producing over 50% of Japan's milk. But it's quality over quantity, as Hokkaido milk is renowned for its vanilla-like flavor and creamy texture, thanks to the proper climate, sustainable production, and a stress-free environment created for the cows.

The daily routine of a typical Hokkaido cow is simple: They are fed mixed grass and grain, milked (which is then quality tested), and checked for health and cleanliness. The rest is free bovine time in Hokkaido, where cows can enjoy the vast pastures from which they eat. This is a stark contrast to the cruelty numerous industrial dairy farms impose on their cows today.

Milk and Japan never really historically went together. So what happened? Remember when milk was a staple in American homes, symbolizing health and strength? A similar phenomenon occurred in Japan. The Meiji era government, aiming to emulate Western practices, began promoting the benefits of milk to enhance the population's well-being. Until then, milk wasn't really "on the table." This effort was further boosted post-WWII during the American occupation of Japan. Consequently, Japan embraced and perfected milk consumption, integrating it into daily life while producing some of the world's finest.

What to order at Akihabara Milk Stand

At the Mirukusutando, you can taste it. But be warned: There are plenty of flavors to choose from. Just like in the golden age of milk, it comes in a clear glass bottle so that you can see the color and what's inside. This helps non-Japanese-speaking tourists to point out what they want without causing too much confusion. However, if you're indecisive or perhaps someone who freezes up when faced with so much dairy, you can never go wrong with the simple, creamy, tastebud-hugging Hokkaido milk. After all, it is the premium local choice!

Or consider ordering the equally delicious and recommended Minna no Gyunyuu, fresh, non-homogenized milk. For those who might be a little lactose-illiterate, non-homogenized cow's milk is milk in its most natural state. It has not been mechanically treated to disperse fat molecules, resulting in natural cream separation and a richer, creamier taste. For those looking for a caffeinated experience, try "coffee milk." It certainly won't hurt to get energized before hitting the lively streets of Akihabara.

Once you have made your selection, the shopkeeper will pop open your milk bottle for you to drink at the bar. When finished, return the glass bottle to the shopkeeper for proper disposal. Additionally, at Akihabara's milk stand, you can also expect fruit smoothies, teas, coffee, and more. Yes, it's true; you can only knock this off your Japan bucket list once, but nothing is stopping you from having another round!

[Image by Eliazar Parra Cardenas via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 2.0]