Tokyo: Among the victims of the pandemic, there is one that many young people Japan say they don’t miss: the drinking culture. Sobriety, they decided after two years of less socializing and night owls, has its perks. And that’s why a new message from the Japanese government – drink! – seems to put little in mind. To support its struggling alcohol industry, Japan National Tax Agency launched a competition inviting people aged 20 to 39 to submit ideas to encourage people to drink more alcohol. He named the project after the national drink: “Sake Viva!” The agency says it hopes to “revitalize the industry” with the contest, the winner of which will be selected in a tournament later this year. But his plea comes up against more than two years of government action, which has discouraged alcohol sales.
As Japan hits new highs in coronavirus infections, including more than 255,000 new cases on Thursday, many young people are wondering why the government is now saying it’s okay to go out and drink. “Media announces record Covid cases, while restaurants are like, don’t talk while eating, wear a mask,” said Chika Kato, a 27-year-old consultant in Tokyo. “But the government is asking us all to go out and drink at the same time. Who am I listening to?”
For some, any official encouragement to drink — pandemic or not — is a bad idea. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to make people who don’t drink drink,” said Mima Matsumaru, 25, who took advantage of the pandemic to quit drinking. None of the alcohol manufacturers joined the initiative. But the owners and bar staff raved about it. “Hope this helps Ginza (one of Tokyo’s most popular nightlife areas) is coming alive again,” said a bartender.
On average, Japanese people drank about 20 gallons of alcohol in 2020, up from 26 gallons in 1995, according to government data. The decline has hurt lucrative tax revenue: alcohol taxes accounted for 1.7% of Japan’s tax revenue (about $8 billion) in 2020, down from 3% in 2011 and 5% in 1980.
Around the world, the pandemic has reduced alcohol consumption among young adults. In South Korea, soju consumption fell by 14% between 2019 and 2020 and beer consumption by 23%, resulting in the country’s lowest alcohol tax revenue in 10 years. In the United States, the prevalence of heavy drinking among young adults surveyed fell to 26% in 2020, after remaining around 30% from 2015 to 2019. NYT

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