Alcoholic beverages in Japan

by Gustavo - TripleLights travel specialist

Drinking in Japan is an important social event. It is the moment in which most Japanese enable themselves to be out of the highly strict social expectations and strengthen both social and business ties. It is not a hard task to find an Izakaya or a Nomihoudai (all you can drink) spot in Tokyo. Let’s see some of the variety of acoholic beverages commonly found in the Japanese territory.

 

1. Nihonshu

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

Commonly called Sake outside of Japan, Nihonshu could have its own blog post considering the large variety it might come and all the different flavor it has depending on type, brand, and so forth. Nihonshu  is brewed using rice, water and white koji mold as the main ingredients, and it can be found everywhere from supermarkets to convenience stores. At the Konbini you can even find it in a cup “dose”, something not as much common outside of the country. Also, Nihonshu from different parts of Japan have different characteristics, understanding and tasting Nihsonshu from around Japan is a tour on itself.

 

2. Shochu

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

Shochu is another famous traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage. It is a distilled spirit which alcohol content usually varies from 20 to 40 percent. It is commonly made from rice, sweet potatoes, wheat and/or sugar cane. Okinawa has its own version of Shochu called Awamori and its difference comes from the fact that it is made from long-grained thai-style rice instead of short-grained Japanese-style rice and uses a black koji mold raised in Okinawa.

 

3. Umeshu (plum wine)

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

Not as famous outside of Japan as the regular Nihonshu and Shochu, Umeshu is a drink commonly found in japan in every place that sells alcoholic drinks. It is made of Japanese plums (ume), sugar, and Shochu or Nihonshu. The strong fruit flavor makes it very different from the alcoholic source used in its preparation. Umeshu is a good option from anyone that is up to a drink with a juicy flavor with a strong aroma.

 

4.Beer

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

Even though it is not a type of drink originated in Japan, beer is probably the most usual option in an Izakaya. Some Nomihoudai (all you can drink) might even have different prices depending if the group wants or not to have beer included as an option. The leading breweries of Japan are Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo. Beer started to be part of the Japanese life after the beginning of the Meiji era when the country opened to the outside influence. The beer production was used as a means to develop the region of Hokkaido, northern Japan.

 

5. Happoshu

An invention that came from the Japanese beer breweries, Happoshu, “bubbling alcoholic drink” (also known as low-malt beer), has a similar flavor and alcohol content as beer. As it has less than 67% of malt content, it is popular among consumers as it has a lower tax because it is out of what is classified in Japan as “beer”. In other words, due to the lower malt content, Happoshu is sold in a lower price than regular beer.

 

6. Shin Janru

A third option developed in Japan for someone that is looking for a beer-like taste is Shin Janru. Due to the way the taxation over malt based alcoholic beverages works, japanese companies started to develop another method to create a drink with the taste of beer, without using its main production ingredient. Shin Janru, the “new genre” of beer, is basically a ber-like beverage that stays out of the “beer classification” taxes. It is made of pea, soy or wheat spirits.

 

7.Whisky 

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

c1.staticflickr.com

A famous western liquor in Japan is Whisky. Outside of Japan, a famous whisky brewery is Suntory. Built in 1937, this brand is showcased in the famous movie starred by Bill Murray: Lost in translation. Another famous brand in Japan is called Yamazaki. You can find Whisky everywhere just as if it was a Japanese drink. It is one of the regular options at Bars, Izakaya and Nomihoudai places. It is often served on the rocks or mixed with water and ice.

 

8.Wine

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

The most famous Wine production region in Japan is located at the Yamanashi prefecture. This region features a fertile central valley and is surrounded by many of the highest mountains of Japan, including the Mt. Fuji, a national symbol. Recently Wine is gaining popularity in Japan, especially amongst women, and the most common of the foreign wine available in Japan comes from France, Italy, Spain, United States and Australia.

 

9.Highball

Popularized in the 1950’s, Highball (drink made by Whisky mixed with Soda) had its popularity increased especially as an alternative to beer. As the beer taxes represents a motive for a higher price in an alcoholic beverage in Japan, Highball has enjoyed this resurgence in recent times for the same reason as Shin Janru and Happpshu were created. Usually a Highball has an alcoholic content of five to seven percent, it is widely and easily found in Japan.

 

10. Chuhai

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

upload.wikimedia.org

Chuhai are fruit flavored drinks made from Shochu and Soda. It can be found available premixed in cans anywhere alcohol is sold. Common flavors include: lemon, ume, peach, grapefruit, lime, and mikan. It is also common to find flavors only available on specific seasons, for example, pear, pineapple, and nashi. Its alcoholic content varies between three and eight percent.

 

11. Drinking culture in Japan

When drinking alcohol in Japan in a group, it is customary to serve one another, rather than serving yourself. If someone wants to serve you, you should drink to make room in your glass if there’s still liquid inside, and take at least one drink before putting the glass down. During a Nomihoudai (all you can drink) it is customary that the waitress will only refill the cups after everyone that ordered a certain type of drink (usually beer) has finished drinking their cups. Which makes the whole experience much more into a group social activity. You should, also, not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a toast, the word japanese for a toast is “Kanpai”.

 

Japan has a wide variety of types of alcoholic beverage. From Nihonshu to Chuhai, the traditional Japanese drinks have a unique flavor, that brings in its taste and aroma the culture and traditions of Japan. Experiencing the western liquors produced in Japan is another interesting option for travelers. Which one is your favorite Japanese drink?

Need help planning your trip to Japan ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Japan, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Japan


28 Mar 2016

Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews

“ My Favorite Golden Route: Kyoto One-day Tour ”

Excellent
32 minutes ago Traveler: Wai -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

My friend and I had a wonderful time traveling with Yoshi. He is happy, funny, high energy, polite, friendly, and patient and knowledgeable. He enjoyed his job and so as we enjoyed his company. We highly recommend him.
read more

“ Great Osaka Experience ”

Excellent
7 hours ago Traveler: Stuart -   Tour Guide: MAKOTO

A group of 4 adults that wanted to see Osaka in a day - a tall order! We worked out an ambitious itinerary with Makoto before our visit. Makoto was very positive and communicative throughout. When we met on the day Makoto provided information sheets and a historical overview of Osaka. Makoto explained the history and local context of all the sights we visited. We covered a lot of territory with Ma...
read more

“ Highlight of our Tokyo trip ”

Excellent
13 hours ago Traveler: Leigh -   Tour Guide: Sachimi

You MUST book Sachimi for your tours. She is so easy to work with, speaks perfect English, and is beyond accommodating. We were a group of 8 adults on a tour to Kawagoe. Sachimi met us at our hotel in Ikebukuro and escorted is by train and bus to a kimono rental shop in Kawagoe. Having her there made it so easy to converse with the staff. The dress up went smoother than expected. It was so much fu...
read more

“ Garden Tour and Tea Ceremony ”

Excellent
14 hours ago Traveler: Kira -   Tour Guide: Hiromi

Hiromi was a good guide; she was friendly and happily answered my many questions and helped us with a Suica card mix-up. I was a little disappointed that our tea ceremony was in a hotel rather than a real tea house, however we booked our tour only a week ahead of time and Hiromi said that March is a busy month, so I understand that perhaps it wasn't possible. And, after the official tea ceremony w...
read more

“ Great experience ”

Excellent
16 hours ago Traveler: SAJI -   Tour Guide: Toshihiro

Todhihiro went above and beyond, even stood in line for an hour helping us with reservations at JR station. Would recommend Toshihiro to anybody traveling to Tokyo.
read more

“ Don’t look further- just book Kahoko if you can!!!???????? ”

Excellent
18 hours ago Traveler: Leigh -   Tour Guide: KAHOKO

Kahoko is absolutely lovely to be with, and an incredibly comfortable companion for all ages. She works so hard to accommodate and really knows her stuff. We have had guides worldwide and I can honestly say she’s tops. A delight!!! She will move fast or be incredibly patient, is very attune to her clients’ desires. Get her if you can. Thank you Kahoko!
read more

“ One day cruise excursion in Tokyo ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Rosa -   Tour Guide: Kunio

Had an amazing day in Tokyo with Kunio. We had a short port day in Tokyo so wanted to be able to see the highlights we were interested in the short time we were there. Kunio was a great guide and was able to customize a great itinerary for us and get us back on our ship in time. Hiring a guide is definitely worth the money as he was able to help us use public transportation and show us around the ...
read more

“ A day in Tokoyo with Maru ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Laurie -   Tour Guide: Maru

I had a 11 hour layover in Tokoyo. I arranged to have a guided tour with Maru during my layover. She was great in communicating with me and creating the perfect tour for me prior to my arrival. She meet me at the airport. She was very warm, friendly and knowledgeable that made my tour also a learning experience. Her tour was very efficient and got me back to the airport as scheduled. We went to Se...
read more

Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started