lifestyle

Japan’s toxic drinking culture no one talks about

30 Comments
By Brooke Larsen

Japan is a booze lover’s paradise. For centuries alcohol has mixed into the local culture, creating friendships and sealing business deals on a daily basis.

A peek into the nation’s history reveals alcohol has always been a way of life—ancient Buddhist temples acted as the primary sake breweries for centuries and Chinese envoys in the third century wrote of the Japanese: “They are much given to strong drink.”

Yet, there are underlying issues mixed in with liquor’s storied legacy. Company employees often feel pressured to drink excessively with their superiors or else miss out on promotions. Walking through any metropolis at night without tripping over a passed out drunk is almost impossible. And alcohol isn’t regarded as a drug, nor alcoholism considered a problem by most of society—leading it to be abused by many.

t’s worth pointing out that Japan’s reputation as a place with a booze problem tends to be sensationalized. In 2014, an advertisement featuring passed out drunks in Tokyo went viral. Western media jumped the resulting hashtag #nomisugi (meaning “drank too much”) even though the video never gained traction in Japan and was likely staged.

When the 2018 World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Global status report on alcohol and health” ranked nations worldwide on alcohol consumption per capita per year, Japan didn’t even come close to first place, ranking at 119 out of 189. However, WHO guidelines typically quantify one unit of alcohol as equal to 10 grams of pure alcohol; in Japan, a typical measurement is twice that at 20 grams per unit.

So, what’s the deal? Do Japanese people drink too much or not?

The truth is, the drinking culture in Japan is complex—a cocktail of excitement, anxiety, and harassment that can be hard to understand even with experience. For some, drinking is simply a fun and stress-free way to unwind and connect with peers; for others, it’s a crippling addiction.

I lived in Japan for six years and spent most of that time drinking. Many of my best memories (when I can recall them!) involve booze.

So do some of my worst.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
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. Walking through any metropolis at night without tripping over a passed out drunk is almost impossible

Seriously? That's not exaggerating just a tad is it?

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Goes hand in hand with the toxic work environment.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I agree, Japan is an alcoholic's paradise. Booze is cheap enough and you can but whatever you want at the combini. I'd say Russia and many other Eastern European countries have a much bigger problem with alcohol though.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

British drinks by standing outside the pub and only getting the drink for himself

Not true. If you are with others you buy a round.

As for this weird and poorly researched article, the drinking culture in Japan is nothing compared to that in many places in Europe. The writer also says, more than once, that living in Japan causes alcoholism, which is ridiculous.. They also conflate drinking alcohol with alcohol dependency. You can drink alcohol without becoming addicted, violent, anti-social etc. Alcohol removes inhibitions, if someone is violent it's because they are a violent person, the alcohol doesn't make a person violent of the tendency wasn't their in the first place.

As for the assertion that it is acceptable to drink anywhere, anytime - that's rubbish. Try buying a drink with your lunch.

There is a big issue with drink driving here though, but that is down the authorities not being that bothered to deal with the issue, it's a public health issue. The same with kids not being buckled up in a car - wrong but totally acceptable.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Going through the side streets around Akabane on a Sunday morning is hazardous, it's just vomit and left over filth from Saturday night drinkers. Japan certainly has a problem with drinking. Even the booze ads exaggerate what they're selling. If I was a kid seeing those ads, I certainly would be swayed.

At least Japanese drinks in cosy fun way whereas British drinks by standing outside the pub and only getting the drink for himself, and Koreans? They beat their women after they drink. Even Most Chinese know about all kinds of Asian drinking culture.

I take it you've only been to one low-end British pub you whole life and made an assumption that they're all like that. There are tons of British gastro pubs and up-market ones that are nothing like you've portrayed. And no, they don't all beat their women after drinking. Stop going to the cheap low class pubs where the lowlifes congregate.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

That poor man in the photo......drank until his head fell off.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

And you wonder why very little of substance actually ever gets done in the workplace? Now you know! Hungover as F! Who knows, one day nomunication may be replaced with sober and clear thinking communication!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The drunks here usually just fall into a beer coma while elsewhere violence erupts and fighting on the streets. Also in another country if you fell asleep on the street in a beer coma you would wake up to find everything gone. Bag, shoes, clothes.

I find a problem with group drinking is the constant topping up of the glass before its finished so in the end you lose track of the amount you drink. I prefer to buy a pint and then another if I want it.

These salarymen are not alcoholics.

I always have a can of beer with my lunch and two with my dinner. I never eat sushi without drinking sake, even for lunch. Just drink less. Would never eat in a French restaurant and not drink wine.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Amy Bovoroy wrote an excellent book, The Too Good Wife, about Japanese wives dealing with their husbands alcoholism. Each of the women took a very long time to figure out what alcoholism even was, because it wasn't really recognized in Japan for many years, precisely because social drinking is so expected. I don't drink, and though I don't live in Japan, I have experienced social consequences because of it. Can't imagine how it must be in that kind of atmosphere.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just peek at their TV ads...tobacco and alcohol - it's no brainer really! Pity.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

No mention of the higher levels of Type II diabetes in Japanese males attributable to drink. In the U.S. and the U.K. it's due to obesity. In Japan it's the result of alcohol consumption.

https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00249/diabetes-cases-in-japan-top-10-million-for-the-first-time.html

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/diseases/alcohol-and-diabetes/

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Drinking is the worst habit of mankind.

other way round, smokers literally stain the people and objects around them. Death from second hand smoke is a thing

3 ( +3 / -0 )

True - There are not so many mean, fighting drunks in Japan, comparatively speaking, A lot of people go to sleep after a few drinks. There does seem to be some bullying of people into drinking more than they care to, however.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The good thing about company or university communal drinking is that it is a ritual. It is expected you'll get tipsy and so you leave your car at home. Everyone knows that people say really daff things when they are drunk and so that is forgiven, The drinking is accompanied by food, which absorbs much of the alcohol. There are also diversions like speeches and songs and bingo. By the time its over people generally happy and ready to go the second place for more drinking. This is how a lot of guys end up barfing at the train station. The train station of course have signs on how to barf (away from the rains) so you don't get electrocuted. Lately seats have been arranged so that drunks don't walk on to the tracks.

A few things. Women are not supposed to drink a lot. That is only for men. And a guy has some kind of health problem that is usually respected (at least in my experience.

I've traveled in Russia and alcohol over consumption is a major problem, as always has been. That to vodka and stronger stuff the average life expectancy is 65.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I lived in Japan for six years and spent most of that time drinking. Many of my best memories (when I can recall them!) involve booze.

And after that confession, I am supposed to take anything this person writes about culture and alcohol seriously? Like my 3 times divorced friend who loves to give marriage advice....

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There are other ways to get a dopamine boost, with little to no health risks.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The article exxagerates. Yes, obviously drinking is part of the culture here. But if you go drinking with Japanese friends, you soon discover that they collapse pretty quickly, so there very little chance of them drinking too much the way Westerners do. Low alcohol tolerance is a built-in safety valve. And I love how everybody around them takes care of them. Go to a local bar, and chances are you find someone sleeping in a corner... without anyone bothering him/her. Very relaxed and natural attitude.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

" I lived in Japan for six years and spent most of that time drinking."

And now she's trying to pass that off as some kind of area expertise. Which, in principle ain't such a bad thing. Nearly of us to one degree or another do likewise. But...

Some of us actually did learn something after six years in Japan

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you cannot drink a lot as a guy in Japan, you have no hope for any promotions in most Japanese companies.

In a sense, drinking is a more important asset than education or skills in Japan. As long as you can drink a lot, you will have a smooth ride to the executive position. You dont need sny skills since the non-drinkers will be working under you making 1/20 the salary.

There needs to be a gene therapy to allow for more drinking to balance out the playing field.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

There are other ways to get a dopamine boost, with little to no health risks.

agreed. alcohol is a toxin and youll feel its horrible effects the next morning. I just dont really like it anymore. I dont think Japanese take the prize for drinking though. I never seen alcohol poisoning until I was in Oki with the USMC. every night, we would drink a bottle of jack or barcadi sleep for 1 hour in a coma then wake up and run 3 miles, puking and singing cadence the whole way. hang over gone, start work. great times.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

sf2kOct. 2  01:46 am JST Drinking is the worst habit of mankind. Death from second hand smoke is a thing

Death from secondhand smoke is "a thing," but greatly exaggerated. Most people who die of smoking related lung cancer or heart disease do so in their 70s after decades of smoking. The number of people known to die of secondhand smoke is statistically insignificant.

https://www.acsh.org/news/2000/08/01/warning-overstating-case-against-secondhand-smoke-unnecessary-and-harmful-public-health-policy

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/health/28smoke.html

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/secondhand-smoke-exaggera_b_72483

The air city dwellers breathe daily is more polluted with carcinogens than being around secondhand smoke for limited periods of time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Drinking is fine, but constant use of the stairs in train stations has to stop for regurgitated noodles. Does make the Crows and Sparrows as well as pigeons happy. They seem to enjoy the sour taste with an alcohol flavor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If its people drinking out of choice, it's not remotely "toxic".

Aside from alcoholism, which sadly happens worldwide, the two Japanese aspects to focus on as negatives are peer-pressured drinking, mostly at companies but also at other groups like university clubs and neighbourhood associations, and sexual assault/rape of women who've had a drink. Women who have had a drink are given no sympathy and are assumed to have consented to everything.

People outside Japan should note that it is common in Japanese social situations to drink out of glasses and sake cups that are instantly refilled by other people. The only way to have "one or two" in this situation is to not touch the always-full glass in front of you. It is much easier to limit your intake when you get to order your own drinks.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Drinking should be stop unless for happiness.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Drinking is the worst habit of mankind."

other way round, smokers literally stain the people and objects around them. Death from second hand smoke is a thing

I would guess that deaths from alcohol related car accidents and violence might outnumber the deaths from second hand smoke. And I say that as someone who enjoys drinking and hates smoking.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Is there any more dangerous socially acceptable stimulant/recreational drug?

I've rarely seen people cause such violence and throw caution to the wind after a bit of herb.

(Disclaimer: Until legalized, I strongly advocate avoiding all unlawful substances.)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Drinking is the worst habit of mankind. It is as dangerous as smoking. The drinking kills you and one pays to get killed. The drinking-industry when it grows, it destroys family ties, buries cultural values and kills family value system.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

People love sports and you will have no problems !!!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

At least Japanese drinks in cosy fun way whereas British drinks by standing outside the pub and only getting the drink for himself, and Koreans? They beat their women after they drink. Even Most Chinese know about all kinds of Asian drinking culture.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

I blame J Govt. For the obligatory drinking culture in Japan. The salaryman is obligated to drink accessively and this goes all the way to the host clubs.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

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