Alright, alright. We’ll take a break from thinly veiled history lessons and move on to something more interesting. Like alcoholism in Japan or drinking in Japan!
So, if you ever consider living in Japan, it helps to like alcohol. If you don’t, it won’t be a huge problem, but there are a number of perks which I will conveniently detail below. First of all, I must emphasize the importance of availability. I’m from a place where it was possible to get both booze and groceries from the supermarket; sadly where I currently live this is not the case. And I’ve realized how good I’ve had it up until now. You can get a drink from just about anywhere you want in Japan; from a convenience store in the neighborhood or a vending machine near the train station. (Yes, Japanese vending machines are a thing of glory, but we’ll get to that later.) So yeah, accessibility matters; you never know when you’ll need an extra liter.
When I was out and about, people really seemed to like beer, fruit based “girly” drinks, or sake. Liquors were harder to come by, but the people I lived with tracked them down for efficient house parties. Another popular (read: cheap) drink for us was some god awful sake in a 3 liter bottle – it tasted like vodka but with half the alcohol content. Wine seemed to be an expensive delicacy.
Izakayas are the cheapest places for booze in Japan and naturally became our partying center of choice. One of the places we frequented had just about everything for ¥300, and electronic menus (which are fun to play with) where you punch in whatever you want on the screen and the servers bring it out. These places are designed for groups of people to hole up and get drunk. In some places, the tables are separated by high walls, and in all of them, drunken antics are never a problem. I’ve invaded an Izakaya with 20+ people, all of whom were or soon became loud, obnoxious, and American. We were loud enough to get ourselves kicked out of any other place, but fortunately Japan seems to take a slightly more forgiving view toward rampaging drunkards (probably because no one owns a car).
Speaking of rampaging drunkards: since I’ve already mentioned that public intoxication is more or less acceptable, I guess I should stop keeping you in suspense and elaborate on some particulars. One of the first times our group conducted a drunken march, I’m pretty sure we got lost. We wandered around what would later become my favorite district (Sakuragicho) before running into gangs of high school kids outside the train station (It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. They just don’t have much support at home and need people to talk with.). I’ve stayed out the entire night in Roppongi, fueled by alcohol and McDonalds. Another time, we were wandering around and got hungry, so we decided to stop at a Yoshinoya (that’s a Japanese fast food joint). As it turns out, we were barely coherent enough to order or use chopsticks. The food was great, but some people didn’t finish in time before the group got bored and started to leave them behind. One girl made out of the restaurant with her ceramic rice bowl still in hand and a single chopstick. She had a hard time finishing the meal. That’s the lesson for this week: if you’re going to accidentally steal food, accidentally steal something to eat with too.
That’s all for now. History lessons to follow.
Photo courtesy of Tyler Blakley.