Drinking plays an important role in Japanese society. Drinking parties, typically held at restaurants and izakaya, are a common activity that are used to strengthen both social and business ties. A large variety of alcoholic beverages can be found in Japan. Some of the most popular ones are:

Beer and beer-like drinks

Sake (rice wine)

Shochu and awamori




Plum wine (umeshu)


Alcoholic beverages are sold in supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, liquor stores (saka-ya) and a decreasing number of vending machines. The legal drinking age is 20 years old, the same as for purchasing tobacco products.

Drinking manners

When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is customary to serve one another rather than serving yourself. You should periodically check your friends' glasses and replenish them before they are empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you, you should drink to make room in your glass if it is full, hold it up for the person while they pour and then take one sip before putting the glass down.

At the beginning of a meal or drinking party you should not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a toast, which is usually "kampai". Other toasts are acceptable, too, but note that "chin chin" refers to the male genitalia in Japanese and may not be the ideal word choice depending on the situation.

While it is considered bad manners to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, the same is not true for other types of restaurants, such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.