Convenient, strong beer meets healthy living in Japan

The legal age for drinking beer in Japan is 20, although the result of each successive generation being less populous than the previous one is that fewer people are reaching legal drinking age each year.  Paradoxically, Japan is one of the few developed nations that has actually increased its alcohol consumption over the past 70-years — alcohol consumption has steadily declined in most other countries during the same period.  This is no surprise because Japan’s alcoholic drinks and drinking-culture are world-famous.

When people mention Japanese alcohol everybody usually thinks of Sake, known in Japan as Nihonshu.  Then there’s Shōchū, a distilled liquor made from rice, barley, potatoes or similar ingredients.  There are many more popular alcoholic drinks in Japan, such as Umeshu (Plum Wine), a favourite of people who don’t like the taste of alcohol.  Japan has also had a 150-year love affair with beer, initially importing American and European brewers to create reproductions of international beers for the nascent Japanese beer market.  Beer is still big business, yet there are hundreds of different beers available nowadays in a marketplace dominated by a few major players.

A diminishing number of younger drinkers combined with an aging population is a cause for concern to the large beer companies.  Moreover, there is a tendency in Japan for the working-age population to seek time-saving convenience in every activity, a result of limited free time and a chronic compulsion to overwork.

What now appears to be emerging from the quest for a solution to every problem are conflicting ideas.  Kirin, one of Japan’s major beer companies, is starting to focus on healthcare and well-being products in an attempt to remain aligned with the needs of its drinkers as they get older.  On the other hand, Japan’s beer companies (including Kirin) are upping the alcohol content of their beers in order to satisfy consumers seeking convenience.

One of the fastest growing sectors of the Japanese beer market are beers with an ABV of up to 9%, allowing drinkers to spend less time drinking without forfeiting the effects of alcohol.  A lesser-known aspect of the Japanese psyche is to be thrifty and make savings wherever possible, and the commonplace availability of high ABV beers has the added advantage of saving consumers money because they can spend less on beer and still get the same level of alcohol.