Do you know about Japanese drinking culture? - Waku Waku

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Do you know about Japanese drinking culture?


Do you know about Japanese drinking culture?

Each country has its own drinking culture. But have you ever noticed any characteristics of Japanese drinking culture? In fact, "Communication" is a key in Japan.

Waku Waku

Waku Waku

Published on 15 May 2020, 12:03

Statistically, the amount of alcohol consumption in Japan is not that much compared to other counties. However, you may get the impression that the frequency of Japanese drinking is apparently higher than others. How may you get this?

In Japan, there are many restaurants and bars where you can easily access alcoholic drinks. There, you can have local drinks like "Sake" or "Shochu" as well as many other drinks from overseas. It is quite usual that a lot of Japanese enjoy drinking in the early evening on the weekdays, also from early afternoon for the weekend, at those places.

In addition, Japan has a lot of opportunities to drink together, such as seasonal events or social drinking at work, and so on. The Japanese like to gather whenever the chances are, and enjoy eating and drinking together with family or friends as part of communication.

In this article, we introduce Japanese drinking culture. It is useful to know the drinking rules, manners or trends in Japan, as well as when they drink or where they drink. Understanding the culture would help you more to enjoy your drinking in Japan, or drinking with the Japanese.

1. Let’s look at the laws of drinking in Japan

It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol in Japan
It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol in Japan

The legal drinking age in Japan requires to be over 20 years old. This is strictly determined, considering the health for young age.

And importantly, driving under the influence of alcohol is totally illegal. The standard of targeted punishment for the drink-driving of Japan is relatively strict compared to other countries (Blood alcohol content standard value 0.3mg/ml or over). Please do not drink and drive.

In addition to it, if the driver is drunk, the passenger is also punished. So be careful.

2. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, anywhere and everywhere

Alcohol shelves in the supermarket
Alcohol shelves in the supermarket

There are a lot of places where you can access to drink in Japan, like restaurants or eateries. It is also available to purchase alcohol beverages at not only liquor shops but also almost every supermarket or grocery store. Especially convenience stores sell alcohol 24/7. However, people under the legal age of 20 are not allowed to purchase them.

Furthermore, it is not illegal to drink in public, such as parks, streets, benches in stations or even inside of the train. You may have seen that Japanese people eat and drink in a park or riverside to view cherry blossom in the spring.

Although drinking outside is not illegal in Japan, however, please be noted to follow the drinking etiquette.

3. The Japanese drink whenever there is a chance

Hanami parties in the park
Hanami parties in the park

When cherry blossoms start blooming, Japanese people have "Hanami" to welcome the spring and admire the beauty of the flower. When a new hire joins the company, Japanese people like having "Kangeikai" to welcome the new colleague to the team. The Japanese like holding the end of year party called "Bounenkai", and when the new year starts, they like holding "Shinnenkai" as a new year’s party... Not only the above occasions but Japanese people like drinking whenever there is a chance.

When it comes to the end of year to new year, "Bounenkai" and "Shinnenkai" are repeatedly held among working groups, friends or family members... and it may happen to you to drink every single night!

Be careful of drinking too much, but please enjoy seasonal drinking events in Japan!

4. "Sashitsu sasaretsu" - Exchanging Sake cups

Exchanging Sake cups to show respect to others
Exchanging Sake cups to show respect to others

It is often seen that the Japanese "exchange Sake cups" when they drink. It means pledging loyalty, and this is one of the communication ways at the drinking scene by pouring drinks with each other. Please enjoy this unique experience.

First, always be concerned about how much is left in your companion's cup. When you find the cup is less or out of drinks, let's serve the drink and fill up the cup. When you pour, it is important to remember holding the container with both hands, because it shows "the respect" to others. By using both hands, pour drinks carefully and respectfully.

The other way around when you are served by the companions, then make a toast several times. Caring and kindness to others would bring the relationship closer and deeper to each other.

5. "Nomi-nication" - Socializing over drinks

Nomi-nication is also the way to socialize
Nomi-nication is also the way to socialize

The new word, called "Nomi-nication" has been used these days. "Nomi" means “drinking” in Japanese, and this is combined with "communication" in English, to consist of this newly coined word, "Nomi-nication".

It means socializing over drinks with any group members or colleagues plays an important role in communication and helps build good relationships in their situation.

For example, "Kangeikai" which welcomes the new recruits to company or university, or general drinking occasions with boss or colleagues, are "Nomi-nication".

"Nomi-nication" is not only drinking together, but having a clear purpose of "communicating with others closely" by drinking together. For this reason, some companies in Japan positively recommend "Nomi-nication" by supporting the cost, or converting the drinking time to working hour.

Japanese restaurants and bars in the street
Japanese restaurants and bars in the street

Drinking together makes the relationship deeper. If you meet any drinking chances from all above, please join and experience the Japanese drinking culture, and enjoy communicating.

For the next article, we would like to introduce where in Japan you can enjoy drinking. What types of restaurants or bars are available in Japan? Do you like drinking with many people or you prefer to drink quietly? Or do you know other entertainment types bar...?

Please look forward to the next article!


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