5 Reasons behind Japan’s High Drinking Rate
According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report , nearly 25% of Japanese men drink unsafe levels of alcohol. For women, that figure is just under 5%. To understand the pervasiveness of the problem, it’s helpful to examine cultural factors.
Bear in mind that like any cultural generalisation, these are observations based on stereotypes. Culture is incredibly complex, and any one person’s reasons for drinking must be understand contextually. Furthermore, most experts agree that alcoholism is a genetically inherited disease, so cultural factors should be considered as an adjunct to the disease model of addiction.
“Who’s the last man standing?”
In many Asian cultures, a salient cultural trope is that of saving face, or keeping the respect of one’s peers. Both men and women will go to great lengths to maintain appearances and look as good as their contemporaries. Saving face is well apparent in Japan’s drinking culture. If your drinking buddies, who are also usually your co-workers, take a drink, you had better as well. Otherwise, you will risk looking weak and not being a part of the team. What’s more, it is considered rude if someone pours you a drink and you refuse. People will refill your glass even when not empty; and if you prefer not to drink, it is considered a lack of openness or trust.
‘When I am drunk, I can say what I think!”
While certainly not limited to Japan, men in this Asian country often have to keep a stiff upper lip. Complaining or showing signs of discomfort are frowned upon… at least until the booze starts flowing. Drunkenness is the perfect excuse for many (mostly) men to say what is bottled up inside. Through a strange logic, drinking is seen as a door to emotional honesty and deep sharing. Unfortunately, emotional outbursts while drinking rarely lead to lasting or meaningful connection.
“I’m feeling lonely… Let’s go drinking!”
Culture in Japan lends itself to introversion and solitary activities. Many people work alongside each other and have little interaction during the gruelling workday, often lasting 10 hours or longer. As a way to break the ice and unwind, many turn to alcohol as a social lubricant.
“Drinking is a problem? Who knew?”
Many Western countries have some stigma attached to drinking. This is far less so in Japan, where drinking has never been prohibited. Perhaps because of a lack of education, or a general cultural acceptance, Japanese culture has a far more benign attitude towards drinking. You will see nary an anti-drinking campaign on television. In fact, there have even been reports of a product called “Kids’ Beer.”
“I’ll meet you at the all-you-can drink buffet.”
Called “Nomihodai” – all-you-can-drink buffets serve up as much as you can drink for a period of time. For example, many of these establishments have a set price for 2 hours of drinking. These bars single-handedly offer affordable binge drinking, supporting one of the more harmful ways to drink.
To Sum Up
There are multiple ways to understand addiction; culture is one way to enhance our understanding of the disease model of addiction. If you or someone you know is seeking treatment for addiction, we encourage you to contact a professional specialist. At The Cabin, Chiang Mai, we offer effective, holistic treatment and have an excellent success rate with clients from around the world. Contact one of our team today to arrange a consultation.