The country's tax agency is trying to reverse the alcohol industry's epidemic doldrums by holding a contest to encourage more drinking among the young.
TOKYO -- Among the casualties of the pandemic is one that many young people in Japan say they do not miss: the drinking culture. After two years of less socializing and nightcrawling, they decided to have its advantages. Few seem to be putting in the spirit. To bolster the ailing alcohol industry, Japan s National Tax Agency has launched a contest that invites people aged 20 to 39 to submit ideas for encouraging more alcohol consumption. The project was named after the national beverage Sake Viva! The agency hopes to revive the industry with the contest, whose winner will be selected in a tournament later this year. More than two years of government actions have resulted in a fight between alcohol sales at restaurants and bars, and put up signs forbidding drinking in parks and streets.
Many young people are wondering why the government is saying it is OK to drink and drink after Japan has reached new highs in coronaviruses, including over 255,000 new cases on Thursday. Chika Kato, a 27-year-old consultant in Tokyo, said the media is announcing record Covid cases while restaurants are like, don't talk while eating, wear a mask. The government is asking us to go out and drink. She said it was an awkward situation. Any official encouragement to drink is bad for some.
None of the Japanese alcohol makers have signed on to the initiative. The bar owners praised it. In Ginza, one of Tokyo s most popular nightlife districts, the pubs remained dimly lit and mostly quiet on Thursday night. Kenta Kobayashi, 34, a bartender who has seen a drop in sales since the pandemic began, said he hopes this helps Ginza come alive again. According to government data, the Japanese population drank about 20 gallons of alcohol in 2020, down from 26 gallons in 1995. The decline has hurt lucrative tax revenues: Levies on alcohol accounted for about 1.7 percent of Japan's tax revenue in 2020, down from 3 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in 1980. In the United States, state and local governments collected $7.7 billion in alcohol taxes in 2019, or 0.2 percent of general revenue, according to the Urban Institute. Under the Japan tax agency contest, participants can propose new products and designs targeting young people, or even sales techniques involving artificial intelligence or the metaverse. As long as the submissions are written in Japanese, they may come from anywhere. The winning entry will be commercialized. The organizers of the contest said that overindulgence was not the goal, adding that people should drink only the appropriate amount and take common sense measures against contracting the virus. Ryo Tsukamoto, a spokesman for the agency's alcohol tax division, said we are in no way promoting excessive drinking among young people. Critics were worried about unintended consequences. An economist, Hidetomi Tanaka, called the effort an irresponsible and unorthodox drinking campaign. According to the Japanese Health Ministry, about one million Japanese suffer from alcoholism, while about 9.8 million others are potentially addicted.