The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a decade-long decline in Japanese alcohol consumption, with residents eating and drinking out much less than usual. Although Japan never went into full lockdown, there was a state of emergency declared in Tokyo, with measures that included asking restaurants and bars to close early. At one point during the pandemic, the sale of alcohol in restaurants was banned, while at other times it was restricted to certain times of the day. While people drank more at home, overall alcohol consumption was lower than normal.
Alcohol tax revenue for fiscal 2020 was about $8.4 billion, down more than $813 million from the previous year, according to government data. That was the biggest drop in three decades – and a cause for concern for one government face major fiscal challenges.
Alcohol consumption in Japan had fallen by about a third by 2020 from the annual average of 26½ gallons per person in the mid-1990s, according to the country’s tax agency. Meanwhile, sales of soft drinks — which aren’t subject to similar taxation — have risen in recent years, depending on the industry Counting.
As in many economically developed places around the world, they are younger Japanese drink less than older generations. A 2019 Department of Health opinion poll found that 29.4 percent of people in their 20s do not drink alcohol at all, while 26.5 percent said they rarely drink.
The unorthodox push by bureaucrats to “revive the liquor industry” has drawn a backlash on social media. But major Japanese alcohol producers have publicly expressed their support.
“Young people not drinking is a good thing. Why they’re addicting,” wrote one user on Twitter in a post that received hundreds of likes. Another wrote: “As long as they can collect taxes I guess people’s health doesn’t matter.”
The competition challenges participants to propose new ways to boost alcohol sales, including using artificial intelligence and tapping the metaverse — the virtual universe that combines aspects of digital technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. Registration closes Sept. 9 and finalists will be invited to a tournament in Tokyo in November.
It also calls for “new services and promotional methods” to stimulate demand among young people and create products that accommodate lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health could not immediately be reached for comment.
Inuma reported from Tokyo.