Drinking in Japan

Japanese drinking culture is deeply rooted in the country’s traditions, customs, and social norms. It is characterized by a sense of camaraderie, respect, and enjoyment. Here are some key aspects of the Japanese drinking culture:

  1. Social bonding: Drinking in Japan is often a social activity that helps to strengthen bonds among friends, family, and coworkers. After-work drinking sessions, known as “nomikai,” are common for colleagues to unwind, celebrate, and build relationships.
  2. Etiquette: Politeness and respect are essential in Japanese drinking culture. Some common practices include waiting for everyone’s drink to be served before starting, pouring drinks for others (especially for seniors or superiors), and raising your glass for a toast, or “kanpai,” before taking the first sip.
  3. Variety of drinks: Japan is known for its wide range of alcoholic beverages, including sake (rice wine), shochu (a distilled spirit), beer, and whisky. Each drink has its unique production process, taste, and cultural significance.
  4. Pairing food with drinks: In Japan, it’s common to enjoy alcoholic beverages with a variety of small dishes, known as “otsumami.” These dishes enhance the flavor of the drinks and create a balanced, enjoyable experience. Popular otsumami include yakitori, sashimi, and edamame.
  5. Responsible drinking: While drinking is an essential part of socializing in Japan, moderation and self-awareness are encouraged. Public intoxication and causing a disturbance are frowned upon.

Legal Drinking Age in Japan

The legal drinking age in Japan is 20 years old. This age limit applies to both Japanese citizens and foreigners alike. Violating this law can lead to serious consequences, including fines, deportation, or imprisonment.

A World of Japanese Bars: From Izakayas to Whisky Lounges


Izakayas are casual, after-work drinking spots that offer a relaxed atmosphere. They serve a wide range of food and drink options, such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and draft beer. These establishments are perfect for socializing with friends or colleagues.

Tachinomiya (Standing Bars)

Tachinomiya, or standing bars, are informal and affordable places to enjoy drinks and small dishes. These establishments often serve popular drinks like sake and shochu, accompanied by appetizers like edamame or sashimi.

Whisky Bars

Japan’s growing reputation for producing high-quality whiskies has led to the rise of dedicated whisky bars. These bars offer a sophisticated ambiance and an impressive selection of both Japanese and international whiskies.

Themed Bars and Cafes

Themed bars and cafes in Japan cater to a variety of interests, such as anime or video game-inspired establishments. While these bars can offer unique experiences, some may find them too niche or gimmicky.

Tips for Enjoying Japan’s Drinking Culture Responsibly

To make the most of your experience, it’s important to respect local customs and laws. Learning a few essential Japanese phrases for ordering drinks and interacting with staff can also enhance your experience. Moreover, it’s crucial to consume alcohol responsibly and know your limits.

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