Drinking Age in Japan: Everything You Need To Know

Drinking age in Japan

Japan is a country that is very rich in culture and tradition and is famous for different dynasties and eras. The most popular fact about Japan, perhaps, is its involvement in the second world war and the tragic fate of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the hands of the Americans when it dropped an atomic bomb that annihilated the cities. Japan was once a very close nation, keeping all to itself with very little to no involvement of the outside world.

With the advent of the modern era, however, Japan opened up to the outside world and is now known as one of the most highly industrialized countries to date. Ironically, Japan still preserves most of its culture and is still deeply connected with the past.

History of Drinking in Japan

Drinking is deeply embedded in Japanese culture. While Sake is pretty much the common drink in Japan, beer played a very big role in terms of distribution and formation of laws in terms of drinking. The appearance of beer in Japanese culture did not happen until the 17th century during the Edo period. While the Dutch traders were the ones responsible for bringing beer to Japan, the drink only became popular and accessible during the Treaty of Kanagawa when Japan opened its doors to the rest of the world.

While beer is considered an important part of Japan’s development, nowadays, we still see a lot of different alcoholic drinks that can be considered Japanese counterparts. Happoshu, for one, is a low-malt beer. Then we also have Japanese Whisky and Japanese Wine, which have evolved and have become world-class drinks over time.

What is the legal drinking age in Japan?

A country’s legal drinking age is often associated with adulthood. While other countries keep the age of adulthood at 18, this is not the case for Japan which is 20. Recently, however, the country changed its age to be considered an adult to 18 to be in line with the world’s standard, as most young adults start working at the age of 18.

However, this did not mean the legal drinking age had moved down to 18. Young adults below the age of 20 are still prohibited from purchasing and consuming alcohol. Surely, they’ve gained other rights that make them more independent, but alcohol consumption is excluded from this.

What is the legal drinking age in Japan for tourists and foreigners?

If you’re a foreigner or a tourist and have been used to drinking alcohol at 18, you might want to keep your appetite for any alcohol checked while in Japan. Their government is strict when it comes to implementation and offers no exceptions when it comes to those who violate the law. The legal drinking age in Japan remains at 20 regardless if you are a citizen or just visiting Japan for some sites.

A fine of up to 1,000,000 Yen and up to 5 years of imprisonment awaits those who try to take the law about the legal drinking age as a joke.

Do you need an ID to drink in Japan?

Due to the recent changes in terms of the age of adulthood in Japan, almost everyone is now required to present a residence card or any proof of identification for foreign nationals. People in Japan are usually judged based on their social standing. A person who’s already working surely is aged 20 and above, but that is no longer the case today.

Even someone who is 18 years of age can now start working and may alter their looks in that regard, so to be safe, establishments may ask you for identification whenever trying to purchase or consume alcohol. It is very important to keep your residence card or any valid ID accessible at all times.

The legal drinking age in Japan with Parents

Since Japan is known to be highly anchored in tradition, nothing has changed much when it comes to the legal drinking age, with or without parents. Most European countries offer some exceptions when it comes to the legal drinking age granted the minor is accompanied by parents or a legal guardian. This, however, is not the case in Japan and is something that one should be mindful of when visiting this country.

If we go back to the fine and possible years of imprisonment for violators, you might want to stick to drinking soda to quench your thirst when you’re still below 20 years old. There’s so much at stake not to be prepared, and 5 years is long enough to affect your future.

Legal Drinking Age in Japan by Region

The legal drinking age in Japan pretty much does not change by region; it is a general norm with no exceptions. Although drinking plays a crucial role when it comes to socializing and is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, the legal age of 20 still counts. Even though the age of adulthood is now lowered to 18 opening new windows of opportunities for 18 years old, drinking alcohol just happens to be left out and is not one of the privileges.

This is mainly because of the type of government Japan has, which has a Prime Minister as its leader, unlike other countries where laws and legislation rest among several branches and are implemented differently. It is pretty understandable why such legal drinking age applies to Japan as a whole.


Although Japan is now an open country and has accepted the aid of the rest of the world, it is still very traditional and still sticks to some of the rules that have been proven helpful in maintaining its dignity as a whole. We’re in no way saying Japan is without flaws, but at least it is trying to maintain its decency amidst the changes that are happening everywhere in the world.

They could have decided to lower the legal drinking age, but that would coincide with the recent change in the age of consent, which affects marriages in Japan as a whole. It is not a bad idea to blend in and respond to the call of the times but keeping the things that have been proven to be beneficial to a country is just as important.

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