Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
When Japanese civil servant Yoshiyuki Takeuchi started to lag his colleagues at work, he joined a growing number of his countrymen looking for solace from their problems in the bottom of a glass.
“People who started after me would go further in their careers just because they finished college. I tried to stop that sense of ‘why always me?’ by drinking,” said the 50-year-old, who quit university as his family couldn’t afford it.
With liquor consumption growing sixfold in the last 50 years in Japan to match the country’s economic affluence, alcoholism has become an increasing — but poorly grasped — problem in a nation where booze is readily available from convenience stores, where evening television is awash with liquor ads and where bonding with workmates is typically done over a few cold ones.
Economic losses from drinking problems top 6.6 trillion yen ($73 billion) a year and some 800,000 people, or 0.6 percent of the population, are estimated to be alcoholics. The rate is smaller than the United States or Europe, but is rising as more women and elderly become addicted to drink.
Cheap beer-like drinks are in fashion as suds lovers try to hold onto their daily treat while saving money to ride out tough economic times. Sales of these drinks have been very strong and beer makers are aggressively marketing their products, all of which is just going to further dent the market share of beer, which has been in steady decline for years.
Nowadays, a 350ml can of regular beer will set you back about 210 yen ($2.20) in Japan, while low-malt ”beer-like drinks” go for around 130 yen.
Japan’s finance minister denies he was drunk at a G7 news conference but opposition lawmakers sense blood in the water and are demanding he be fired, adding yet more pressure on a deeply unpopular government that faces an election this year.
The story is the Internet phenomenon of the day in Japan as TV stations and newspapers issued stories calling attention to Shoichi Nakagawa’s behaviour at the news conference at the G7 gathering in Rome over the weekend.