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Facts of Japan - Alcohol

Updated on May 4, 2011

Alcohol in Japan appeared as early as 3rd century. This was recorded in Chinese history as well. In those periods Japanese were fond of alcohol. It might have changed a little with the change of times. But still, drinking parties are really common activity in Japan. These parties are generally used to strengthen the business and social ties. Japan has some of the finest alcoholic drinks and they are a delight to senses.

Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Japan. There are many leading drinks. Some of them are Kirin, Asahi, Suntory and Sapporo.

Happoshu actually means sparkling alcohol. It is knows otherwise as low-malt beer. This alcohol is in fact a recent invention by the ever inventing Japanese brewing companies. It has almost the similar flavor and the content of beer. But this is made with less malt that gives the drink a lighter and different taste. Again it is sold at a lesser price than beer.

Asahi beer
Asahi beer

Third Beer is known as Shin janru that means new genre. Is the most latest addition in the Japanese beer world. This actually contains no malt but soya, pea or wheat spirits.

Rice wine is known as Nihonshu or Sake. And outside Japan it is called as sake. It is brewed with White Koji mold, water and rice. The local rice wines are called Jizake. The alcohol content in this drink is about 10% to 20%.. It can be drunk either cold or hot as well. And it is usually filtered.

Shochu is another alcoholic drink. This is basically a distilled spirit with an alcohol content of 20 % to 40 %. It is being made from rice, wheat, sweet potatoes and or sugar cane. And Shochu is served mixed with ice, water, fruit juice and sparkling water or sometimes oolong tea.

Bottles with Sake
Bottles with Sake

Awamori is practically the Okinawan version of the Shochu. The main difference is that this is made from the long grained Thai-styled rice and not from the short grained Japanese style rice. Then it uses the black koji mold that is indigenous to Okinawa.

Chuhai is another Japanese drink that are fruit flavored alcoholic drinks. This name is actually derived from Shochu highball. The alcohol content lies in between 5% to 8%. The available flavors include ume, peach, lemon, lime, grapefruit and mikan (mandarin orange). While these flavors are common, there are many seasonal flavors available as well. They are winter pear, nashi (Japanese pear) and pineapple.

Tamagozake is a drink made of heated sake, raw egg and sugar. It is also known as egg sake.

Process of making sake
Process of making sake

Amazake is another drink that is sweet and low-alcoholic. This also can be used as snack, dessert, sweetening agent, baby food, smoothie or salad dressing. This traditional drink is made by combining water and amazake and topped with a pinch of grated ginger.

Plum wine is known as Umeshu. It is made of Japanese plums (Ume), sugar and Nihonshu or Shochu, It is sweet and fruity. It has a juice-like flavor.

Wine is similarly gaining popularity among Japanese, especially among women, Along with imported wines local wines are also available in plenty.

Variety of Japan's alcohol
Variety of Japan's alcohol

Whisky is surely the popular western drinks available in Japan. Apart from this Gin and Vodka based alcoholic drinks are served in most bars.

When drinking the alcoholic beverages it is a custom to serve one another. And one should check friends’ glasses always. One needs to empty the glass if someone serves and the glass must be held up for the other to pour the drink and one drink, at the least must be taken, before keeping the glass down. A toast is usually ‘Kampai’.


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