Japan has faced many difficulties during the pandemic, especially since its an island country with a relatively heavy dependence on tourism. However, the alcohol drinking culture is one thing the youngsters don’t want to return to the norm.
As they’ve decided, following two years of reduced partying and nightclubs, sobriety is a good thing and has many advantages. Thus, the indirect message from the government to “Drink Up!” might have riled a few to the party spirit.
To boost its ailing alcohol industry, the Japanese National Tax Agency has kicked off a contest inviting people aged 20-39 to propose ideas to encourage them to drink more alcohol. The competition was named in honor of the nation’s drink: “Sake Viva!”
The agency wants to “revitalize it as a business” by hosting the competition, and the winner will be announced in a tournament after a while. However, its proposal conflicts with two years of policies taken by the government, which banned alcohol sales in bars and restaurants and placed signs that prohibited drinking in parks and on the streets.
With Japan setting new records in coronavirus-related infections, with more than 255,000 cases of new cases reported on Thursday, Many youngsters are wondering why the government is saying it’s okay to drink and go out.
“The media is making headlines about records COVID cases, and restaurants say, don’t be talking while eating, or wear masks,” said Chika Kato, 27 years old and a consultant in Tokyo. “But this government insists we go to the bar and have a drink.”
“It’s awkward,” the woman said. “Who do I listen to?”
For some, any government-issued insistence on drinking — whether it’s pandemic or not is not a good idea.
“I believe it’s not an ideal thing to encourage people who’re trying to cut down on drinking to drink,” declared Mima Matsumaru, who is 25 and is employed in advertising. When she used the pandemic as a way to cut down on drinking, she told me that she didn’t feel like drinking at all.
The majority of Japanese alcohol companies have signed up for the idea. However, bar owners have praised the initiative.
In Ginza, the most well-known nightlife area, bars remained darkly lit and quiet on a Thursday night. “I would like to see Ginza come back to life,” said Kenta Kobayashi, 34, a bartender who’s witnessed a dramatic decline in sales ever since the pandemic started.
On average, residents of Japan consumed around 20 gallons of alcohol in 2020, which was down from 26 gallons in 1995, according to official data. The drop has harmed the lucrative tax revenue as alcohol-related taxes contributed 1.7 percent of the country’s tax revenues (about 8 billion dollars) for 2020. This is a drop to 3 percent as of 2011 and 5 percent in the year 1980.
In the United States, state and local government officials have collected $7.7 billion of alcohol tax, which is 0.2 percent of the general revenue per the Urban Institute.
According to the Japan tax agency’s contest, contestants can create new designs and products for young people and even sell strategies that rely on AI or metaverse. So long as entries can be written in Japanese, they can come from any location. The winner’s entry will be made available for commercialization.
The contest organizers said excessive drinking was not the aim and that participants should consume only “the proper quantity” and adopt “common sensible” precautions to prevent getting the virus. “We do not intend in any way to encourage excessive drinking among teenagers,” said Ryo Tsukamoto, who is a spokesperson for the alcohol tax division of the agency.
Some critics have expressed concern about the unintended consequences. Economist Hidetomi Tanaka called the campaign an “irresponsible and unorthodox alcohol campaign.” According to research by The Japanese Health Ministry, a little over 1 million Japanese suffer from alcoholism, and 9.8 million people are addicted.
Source: The New York Times