The Japanese love drinking. Drinking age in Japan is 20, and most people start drinking right after the legal age. According to a research done by WHO, Japan is on the 63rd (out of 186) of the list of countries by alcohol consumption per capita, being one of the top Asian countries where people drink much alcohol regularly (as of 2018). Let’s take a look at the drinking culture in Japan.
Popular alcohol drinks in Japan
Nihonshu or 酒/Sake is a strong rice wine which is about 15% strength/alcohol content and it has been loved for centuries. Most bars and restaurants have Nihonshu and it goes the best with seafood like sushi. There are many sake breweries in Japan and the taste and the way to make are slightly different from place to place.
Beer is loved by people of all ages over 20. There are 4 major companies that make the finest kinds of beer in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Ebisu, and they are popular overseas as well. People drink lagers more than ales and regional craft beers are gaining popularity these days. Many enjoy traveling and drinking the local beer, and buy it as a souvenir. At 居酒屋/Izakaya, Japanese bar, beer is often ordered as a starter.
It is kind of a traditional alcoholic drink of Japan. Nihonshu is fermented or brewed, whereas Shochu is distilled. The original technique to make Shochu is said to be imported from Thailand in the 15th century, and flourished in Kagoshima in the Kyushu area. It can be made by distilling potatoes, rice, barley, buckwheat, etc, and there is a wide variety of taste and flavor.
Whisky is popular in Japan just like in many other countries, and there are several companies producing whisky in Japan. Besides drinking on the rocks, Japan has a different way of enjoying whisky: Highballs, which is whiskey mixed with carbonated water.
梅酒/Umeshu and チューハイ/Chuhai
梅酒/Umeshu is a sweet plum wine with the alcohol content of around 10-15%.Chuhai is an abbreviation of 焼酎ハイボール/Shochu Highball. Chuhai is made with Shochu (or sometimes with Vodka) and carbonated water with some lemon. Many different kinds of fruits are used and it is a casual drink.
Drinking with Colleagues is important in Japan
Many Japanese feel that after work drinking parties are an important way to enhance relationships. As people need to switch between Honne and Tatemae everyday, spending some casual time with co-workers will surely be helpful in understanding each other.
There is even a word, Nominication (combined word of 飲む/Drink and Communication), which is a way to build good relationships with colleagues and bosses by drinking together.
When lifetime employment was the standard in Japan, workers would say “You have to do Nominication if you want to work your way up the corporate ladder”. Many older generations worked and established relationships this way.
However, the time is changing. The economy is unstable and career changes are more common and it’s easier to accommodate the needs of individuals now. Work environment is a lot more flexible than it used to be, and younger generations are more focused on their life and prefer spending less time with colleagues.
Still, a lot of people find that drinking and dining with teammates and bosses casually is important to develop closer relationships to build trust and share ideas and concerns about work and life.
General Drinking rules
1.Pour for others
When out at a drinking party, pour for others around you as you greet them casually. It is also considered polite if women pour men drinks, and workers pour their boss drinks.
2.Wait until everyone has been served
Just like a formal dinner party, you should wait until everyone is ready for a toast.
3.Don’t drink from the bottle
Drinking directly from the bottle is often considered rude because it’s against the sharing culture.
Say “Kanpai(Cheers)” as you clink your glasses with your friends and colleagues and start drinking and eating.
After the spread of the virus, more and more people are starting to work remotely and drinking over PC screens using Zoom, called “Zoom Nomi” is becoming common. It is an easier way to get together and do Nominication, but there’s a report that people tend to drink more at home because you can drink as long as you want (and go to sleep in your room).
It’s fun to be together but don’t forget to drink moderately and take care of your health!
Today’s words and phrases
・Alcohol consumption アルコール摂取
・go well with 〜と相性が良い
・as a starter 手始めとして
・abbreviation of 〜の省略
・lifetime employment 終身雇用
・tend to 〜しがち
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