All About Japan

Which Country Is Most Accepting of Alcohol?

Alcohol Sake

Japan is in a league of its own when it comes to drinking. Sure, the pubs of England may be filled with raucous drunken shenanigans and those in Argentina have indubitably experienced their fair share of Malbec-filled late nights, but nowhere else is publicly knocking back a cold one (or two or five) as socially sanctioned as it is in Japan.

A survey conducted by The Pew Center as part of its Global Attitudes Project asked the people of 40 nations if they personally believe that drinking alcohol is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. Many of the countries that were the least accepting of alcohol won't come as a surprise, considering most of them have a significant population of practicing Muslims—though El Salvador and Bolivia might be eye-openers.

However, when we get to the top 10 countries that are most accepting of alcohol, things start to get interesting as well. As you can see, Japan is clearly at the top of the list with 66 percent of those surveyed agreeing that drinking alcohol is morally acceptable and six percent outright disapproving of the act. Britain, Canada and Australia follow the island nation with 38, 31 and 36 percent approval, respectively.

It’s worth noting that no other country than Japan has so many people agreeing that imbibing booze is perfectly okay and so few people against it. Look at Britain, in a distant second place with 38 percent approving of alcohol—though it must be noted that a whopping 47 percent just don't think it's a moral issue at all. But Japan goes beyond "non-issue" to wholehearted drunken embrace.

Most social barriers are willfully taken down after the first intoxicating sip of alcohol, allowing everyone to socialize with groupmates of all levels and ask the burning questions social convention dictates cannot be uttered during normal business hours.

Drinking every night is perfectly okay in Japan, and in some cases may be considered good for your career since you're taking the extra time to get to know your coworkers outside of the office. That’s not to say that Japan drinks more than other countries (it certainly does not) but the sheer enthusiasm with which one drinks in this country, and how entirely accepted the act is, is something unique.

Of course public opinion on public drunkeness is slowly changing in Japan, but most “disapproving” of the act is in the form of a slightly tilted mouth and an almost imperceptible head shake.

So it’s no wonder Japan is securely positioned at the very top of the alcohol acceptance ladder. The country’s combination of mid-week company drinking parties, all-you-can-drink restaurant specials, no laws against drinking in public, and the widely accepted notion of nomunication (a portmanteau combining nomu, the Japanese word for drinking, and communication) all combine to foster an open drinking culture.

Although excessive drinking is a real problem for some, this acceptance of alcohol has given rise to hanami (cherry blossom viewing gatherings), karaoke box adventures, and the realization that it’s alright to get a little wild to relieve the stress of daily life. For better or worse, Japan remains a drinker’s paradise.

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