Drinking plays an important role in Japanese society. Drinking parties, typically held at restaurants and izakaya, are a common activity that is used to strengthen both social and business ties. A large variety of alcoholic beverages can be found in Japan.
The Japanese are enthusiastic social drinkers, several shared bottles of beer or flasks of sake being the preferred way for salarymen and -women to wind down after work. It's not uncommon to see totally inebriated people slumped in the street, though on the whole drunkenness rarely leads to violence.
Some of the most popular ones are:
Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. The leading breweries are Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo. The art of brewing beer was imported in the early Meiji Period from Germany as a development project for the northern island of Hokkaido.
Happoshu also known as low-malt beer is a relatively recent invention by Japanese brewing companies. It has a similar flavor and alcohol content as beer, but it is made with less malt, which gives it a different, lighter taste. Also due to the lower malt content, happoshu is taxed differently than beer and is consequently sold at a lower price.
Rice Wine (nihonshu or sake)
Commonly called sake outside of Japan, nihonshu or sake (note that "sake" is also the general Japanese term for alcohol) is brewed using rice, water and white koji mold as the main ingredients. Besides major brands, there are countless local rice wines (jizake). The alcohol content of nihonshu is typically about 10-20%. It is drunk either hot or cold, and it is usually filtered although unfiltered nihonshu (nigorizake) is also popular.
Wine is gaining popularity in Japan, especially among women. While imported red, white, and sparkling wines from Japan, Italy, the United States and Australia are widely available, there also exists a sizable and increasing domestic wine industry. The most famous wine producing region within Japan is Yamanashi Prefecture.
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