Solving the mystery of a Japanese phrase on a coffee can (大容量!ビジネスシーンのながら飲みにぴったり!)

By | December 19, 2014

As part of the process of immersing myself in Japanese without actually leaving in Japan, I take advantage of pretty much any media I can get my hands on and usually to try to decipher at least a phrase or so (or longer if I have the time).

Today I happened to be drinking a can of 冴える (saeru) Black Pokka coffee I bought at a Japanese store, and I glanced at some of the marketing text on the side of the can. It read as follows:


When I read this I must admit I was totally confused at first. The first word clearly indicated a great volume of coffee (in fact the can was quite big), but I couldn’t even figure out the basic grammar of the following sentence because the usage of ながら (nagara) was different than I had seen before.

Typically ながら is used in a fashion like “飲みながら…” which would mean “while drinking…”, where some other verb follows to indicate what is being done at the same time (飲みながら歩く => walk while drinking).

However in this case the word before ながら was a の which just seemed out of place.

Furthermore, the word ビジネスシーン made me think of a scene in a movie related to business, which didn’t really seem to fit with the concept of “great volume”.

After some time I finally found this page, which alluded to the concept of ”ながら飲み”. It seemed to signify that this meant to sort of take a little drink here than there while doing something else, though technically I would of expected this to read 飲みながら. However the difference is that ”ながら飲み” was a noun whereas “飲みながら” is not. In any case I think the phrase came from an expression like “仕事しながら飲む”, where the ”仕事し” part was removed and the “飲む” verb changed to a noun as  “飲み”.

I then looked up ビジネスシーン and found out it was a general term to refer to a place where work is done, and had nothing to do with a movie “scene” per-say.

Putting all of this together, I was finally able to grasp the overall meaning of this text – The can was big so that you can gradually take sips during a meeting or other work without running out quickly. If I were to try and do a loose (non literal) translation I’d say:

“Super sized! Your perfect companion for those long meetings at work!”

This little exercise really shows how unexpected phrases can come up in surprising places, so if you want to increase your fluency take every opportunity to read your foreign language of choice used in different situations.

And the coffee, by the way, was pretty good, though I would only suggest it to those who like black coffee since it was quite bitter. The word 冴える can mean “clear” as in “a clear color”, but it can also be used to express one thinking clearly or intelligently. I think the concept here is that the boost of caffein helps you think “clearly”, and there is some other text on the product that talks about the amount of caffein present to support this interpretation.


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2 thoughts on “Solving the mystery of a Japanese phrase on a coffee can (大容量!ビジネスシーンのながら飲みにぴったり!)

  1. Korean Vitamin

    Wow I couldn’t read that kanji before so that’s 1 new kanji to learn for me. Because it’s written on a can of coffee, it means ‘to be alert’, saying that this coffee is good to wake up your brain or make you alert, not sleepy anymore.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Actually when I saw 冴える, I thought at first it was 冷える (hieru) but I was quickly corrected (:

      I agree with your interpretation, “alert” is a good translation here…


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