One of the things you may notice when you come to Japan is how much drinking seems to be going on. Certain Japanese societal circles (the workplace, university clubs, etc) run more smoothly with the help of alcoholic lubrication in the form of after-hours “drinking parties” to facilitate team-building and bonding—it’s called nomication (or nominication), a portmanteau of “nomu” (to drink) and “communication”.
So we were quite surprised to discover recently that Japan’s level of alcoholic beverage consumption is actually way, way down. But why?
The new findings, dubbed the “Alcohol Report”, came to light following research conducted by the National Tax Agency in May this year. The report details the average alcohol consumption per person per year for the period 1989–2013. We’ve crunched up all the data into a handy line graph for easy digestion.
As you can see, booze consumption has been dropping pretty steadily for the past several decades. The peak time for alcohol imbibing seems to have been the early ’90s, specifically 1992 when the average person was knocking back some 108 litres (24 gallons) of alcoholic beverages per year. In 2013, that number was down to 82.8 litres. We should also point out that, while Japan’s birth rate is dropping, the number of adults of drinking age has actually increased since 1992. It would appear, therefore, that today’s young people are increasingly abstaining from alcohol at the age when you would realistically expect them to be doing most of their chugging.
▼ “Well, okay, but just a teensy sip.”
So what’s the cause of all this? Healthier living? Rising costs? Social apathy? And is there any connection between Japan’s falling birthrate and the decline in alcohol consumption? (Maybe people would be feeling a little friskier if they were knocking back a few on the reg?)
The survey also identified Japan’s booziest prefectures. Let’s have another graph, shall we?
As you can see, Japan’s capital leads the way for drunkenness, but since it’s also so densely populated, that’s not so surprising. We were always led to believe that Osakans have a fondness for the sauce, but these figures don’t really reflect that, since Kansai’s most vibrant city is limping along in 7th place.
Here’s what Japanese netizens had to say about the report:
“If you want us to drink more, then lower the tax on it. Know what I’m sayin’?”
“It’s expensive ’cause of the TAX, duh.”
“Isn’t it a good thing if we’re drinking less, though?”
“It’s because you can’t drive at all if you drink, plus booze is expensive, plus we’re too busy these days.”
“Well, we’ve been raised with the knowledge that cigarettes and alcohol aren’t good for you.”
“Only scum drink; when you drink you inconvenience everyone around you.”
“It’s not for health reasons, it’s because it’s too darn expensive.”
“Stop blaming the cost, you can get cheap beer for less than bottled water.”
“When drinking with friends, it’s good to just knock back cheap stuff when you’re drinking a lot. At home, I like to pair a delicious meal with something classier. And I also enjoy sipping on a glass of nice brandy while I read.”
“It’s the economy. There’s no big mystery here.”
Whatever the reason may be, we suppose this means there’s more for the rest of us. Kanpai!