Drinking in Japan is a little bit different when compared to the United States. Here are a few things I have noted while having a few beverages on my trips over to Japan.
First and foremost, the legal drinking age in Japan is 18, compared to 21 in the United States. While most of the world allows drinking at 18 (legally), it is still a shock to see it as an American. It seems the world has figured out how to allow adults to drink and not cause major issues while the United States still struggles with the age of drinking. I mean, there used to be beer vending machines on the streets of Tokyo.
Another item to note is the acceptance of drinking on the streets. Now, I’m not talking about stumbling out of a bar and into a crowded space and making a scene, that would be an issue in any country. Instead, I am talking about grabbing a beer or other beverage, walking out to a public area, cracking it open and drinking. No one minds, police don’t care (because it is legal), and life continues on. In the US, it would be frowned upon, especially in a large city like New York City, but in a bigger city like Tokyo, it is just a common aspect of life. The Japanese are very relaxed when it comes to public drinking.
Next is the type of alcohol. Sake tends to be king in Japan, but be warned, it is a strong drink that can sneak up on you after a few sips so be very careful if you are going out for drinks or if someone continues to refill your glass at a restaurant (it could make for a really long night).
Beer is plentiful in Japan with Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Yeubisu being the top beers to drink (good luck if you are looking for the American beers, they are just not available or if they are, getting ready to pay a lot for awful beer). IPAs and other craft beers are really not that popular but are slowly catching on. If you are looking for something a little bitter harder, whiskey is a big favorite in Japan and is often sipped or added to make tons of mixed drinks (whiskey highballs are very popular). Also look for yuzushu and other unique Asian drinks.
Drinking is popular in Japan and in my humble opinion, a little more accepted while out in public (especially in a city). People seem more open to it in public and embrace it, instead of trying to hide it in other parts of the world. So get some friends, explore, and make sure to pour their drinks before yours when you enjoy a night out in Japan.