Japan Today

Japan tops the list of countries that are the most accepting of alcohol

By Michelle Lynn Dinh

Japan is in a league of its own when it comes to drinking. Sure, the pubs of England may be filled with raucous drunken shenanigans and those in Argentina have surely experienced their fair share of malbec-filled late nights, but nowhere else is publicly knocking back a cold one (or two or five) as socially sanctioned as it is in Japan.

What some might consider chronic alcoholism in the United States is perfectly okay, and in many cases considered good for your career, in this land of sake and sochu. So it came as no surprise to us to learn that Japan landed on the very top of the list of the countries that think drinking alcohol is morally acceptable.

A recent survey conducted by The Pew Center as part of their Global Attitudes Project asked the people of 40 nations if they personally believe that drinking alcohol is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. The 10 countries that were the least accepting of alcohol may not come as a surprise, considering most of them have a significant population of practicing Muslims.

However, when we get to the top 10 countries that are most accepting of alcohol, things start to get interesting.

As you can see, Japan is clearly at the top of the list with 66% of those surveyed agreeing that drinking alcohol is morally acceptable and a mere 6% outright disapproving of the act. The Czech Republic, Germany, and Britain follow the island nation with 46, 41, and 38%, respectively.

It’s worth noting that no other country but Japan has so many people agreeing that imbibing booze is perfectly okay and so few people against it. Look at the Czech Republic in a distant second place, with 46% approving of alcohol. Not too shabby, but considering a whopping 22% of the nation will disapprove of the wine in your hand, it doesn’t make for a utopic drinking locale.

Alcohol has a very intense, almost magical effect on the people of Japan. It’s a social “get out of jail free” card that grants the holder the right to lasso ones necktie securely around ones head while shouting the words of Lady Gaga in broken English atop the most precariously positioned of tables. It transforms even the most cautious of workers into an entirely new creature that doesn’t mind arm wrestling their superior amongst yakitori grease and discarded edamame shells. And it turns sworn work enemies into best friends after a third beer. Most social barriers are willfully taken down after the first intoxicating sip, allowing everyone to socialize with groupmates of all levels and ask the burning questions social convention dictates cannot be uttered during normal business hours.

Japan’s drinking culture also has the power to turn more than a few expats into something their mother would be ashamed of…but somehow, drinking every night is perfectly okay here. That’s not to say that Japan drinks more than other countries, it certainly does not, but the sheer enthusiasm with which one drinks in this country, and how entirely accepted the act is, is something unique.

Of course, public opinion on public drunkeness is slowly changing in Japan, but most “disapproving” of the act is in the form of a slightly tilted mouth and an almost imperceptible head shake.

So it’s no wonder Japan is securely positioned at the very top of the alcohol acceptance ladder. The country’s combination of mid-week company drinking parties, all-you-can-drink restaurant specials, no laws against drinking in public, and the widely accepted notion of nomunication, a portmanteau combining “nomu,” the Japanese word for “drinking,” and “communication,” all combine to foster an open drinking culture. Although excessive drinking is a real problem for some, this acceptance of alcohol has given rise to hanami, karaoke box adventures, and the realization that it’s alright to get a little wild to relieve the stress of daily life. For better or worse, Japan remains a drinker’s paradise.

Source: Pew Global

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A lot of this I believe has to do with Japanese drinking etiquette. Down here in Australia we love our alcohol too but lots of us make very poor drunks and the media and social circles are rife with stories of violent inebriation and one-punch deaths. No such behavior seems to exist in any kind of perceivable excess in Japan.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Being a Irish/Finn makes Japan my dream location :3

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Two words I love to hear.....nomi hodai.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

And that is one reason living here is great. The US (from where I originate) is sooooo backwards with the 21 yr old minimum and all the bans against open liquor, not to mention the strange sales restrictions that vary hugely with each state and even county.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

What some might consider chronic alcoholism in the United States is perfectly okay

Shame and guilt emotions linked to alcoholism can lead to suicide, especially in male population aver 50.

One high profile case is the suicide of former Finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa in 2009, he made the press for being drunk at G7 news conference and was accused by Japanese public to bring shame on the entire nation. He committed suicide 8 months after the incident.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

LOL no this is so wrong. i can't believe people think japan is awesome because of this. this is very sad! this place is depressed and over worked that's why everyone is an alcoholic! THEY ARE STRESSED OUT! lol wow alcoholism/suicide is so great here in japan! lets praise the abusers <3 let them drink/do drugs til they die! NOT :(

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

Being accepting of people binge drinking on a regular basis, and having problems with alcohol is not a good thing.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Oh great, another "Japan is Number One" survey! I bet they didn't poll the early morning train commuters who just waded through the puke and piss.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I realized this when I first moved here and everyone offered me a beer, even for lunch, etc. Then, when I met my girlfriend's family, the mother in law never let my glass empty. I would agree that over drinking is bad in a general sense, but the locals here have the longest life expectancy in the world and by and large aren't angry drunks like you find in most of Europe, so what can I say, but Kanpai!

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Sloppy drunks that puke, pee and pass out! In a word, gross.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

soon to see a "Number 1 pissartist (ist?)" award? I agree it is very acceptable to drink but not necessarily to gety legless drunk. ifference is you can go to an airport for an early flight and see people having lager with their 8 am breakfast. but you don't see that many totally paralytic punters in the streets....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am actually of the opinion that Japanese make good, mild drunks, compared to where I'm from where barroom fights are common, and everyone is acquainted with at least one guy (or even gal!) who you know to stay far, far away from when they've been on the booze.

On the other hand, I wish they would stop drinking before getting to the stage of needing to decorate the pavements. Nasty.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's beyond just stress, there are so many rigid walls where you can't do this or talk about that or in that way, that it is a necessary greaser for the society. The whole you can say whatever you want and it will be forgotten the next morning cuz you were drunk thing, that doesn't exist anywhere else. If anything, it's in vino veritus, right? But here they just need that excuse.

That said, I don't think it's great. They can't hold their liquor, I don't know if there's less fights, but I wouldn't say moderate, w/ all the mass stumbling, and the sleeping and barfing in public that goes on. That is definitely unacceptable in adults where I come from-- and I'm from a college town.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"some might consider chronic alcoholism in the United States is perfectly okay" Who would think that? Especially with all the pain and suffering it causes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The percentage of violent/aggressive drunks is much less in Japan. Everyone just seems to get happy, and then so amazingly sleepy. Perhaps it is the relatively low tolerance to alcohol; their bodies shut down before they get to the point of being agressive? Even when i am not drinking, I find being around Japanese drunks far more entertaining, than any other country.

Just the other night i was having dinner with my wife and on a table near us was two guys chatting and laughing loudly, obviously drunk. Suddenly it got quiet, and i looked over and they had somehow managed to pass out simultaneously - from lively conversation, to one guy swaying back and forth trying to sleep while sitting up, while the other was lying down on the bench seat. 2 minutes later the sitting sleeper failed in his attempts to keep upright, faceplanting into his plate of food, before deciding to try lying down. Hilarious stuff!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@afanofjapan: It doesn't sound so "hilarious" to me. You pay good money (maybe a lot of money) for a nice, quiet, maybe romantic dinner with your special lady and have to put up with that crap. I would have been furious.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

A nation of functioning alcoholics. Nothing to be proud of.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The main reason I'm still here.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


I think... if you want a romantic dinner, normally people go to places that there is no way you going to find that kind of drunk people.

Probably afanofjapan went to some izakaya or bar -like place.

I just love izakaya... but if I go to celebrate something (like my wife's birthday) a quite restaurant is in order

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Japanese don't beat themselves up about what be judged as questionable behavior in other countries. I can buy booze within a minute in any direction from my home at any time of the day or night. Go to the combini and see the coolers groaning with cold booze, shelves sagging with porn, and front counters laden with cigarettes and 5 kinds of deep-fried meats. A regular cornucopia of sin and delight. Don't ya just luv it !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I like the way Japanese people get sillier as they drink. Back home, people get all deadly serious and "deep": that's how the fights start....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow, the abundance of generalization here. Where I come from, and just about every place I've been, individuals behave differently when drunk. Quiet drunks, happy drunks, sleepy durnks, mean drunks, every place seems to have their share of each type.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


While I agree with the gist of what you say, some generalisations are legitimate.

Compare the number of English people who end up in hospital on Saturday night after a "few beers" with the Japanese.

Different worlds.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@lucabrasi: OK I agree you can sometimes generalize. For example, it seems every Japanese who gets in trouble with the Po-po seems to be a forgetful drunk......as in "office, I was drunk and don't remeber a thing".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't even drink anymore, but I love that Japan isn't anal about alcohol the way so many western countries are. There is nothing wrong with having a few drinks, and/or even getting smashing drunk if the drunk doesn't cause any troubles for anyone. Anyone who has a problem with someone else deciding to intoxicate themselves, simply because they have chosen to intoxicate themselves, is someone who needs to mind their own business.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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