It might be fair to say that this year in booze could be summed up by the giant pile of puke I stepped over on the train platform last night. Though consumers were willing to spend less money on their end-of-year parties, the results witnessed throughout Japan’s transport network during December are much the same as last year: troops of unconscious party victims lying prostrate over the seats of platforms and trains.
Despite this carnage, there have been efforts by the alcohol industry to encourage sensible drinking. 2009 was the year that saw the three big beverage companies — Asahi, Kirin and Suntory — launch non-alcoholic beers, perhaps in response to raised public awareness of the problems of driving under the influence. Recent years have seen stiffer penalties for drinking and driving, and police are becoming increasingly aware of the problem of drunken cyclists, an issue which had been tolerated in the past.
But nothing fuels a good drinking session like threat of financial meltdown, and if consumer’s budgets were a little tight, the alcohol industry did their level best to provide intoxication at bargain-basement prices. Standing bars that offer cheap drinks and no table charge became less trendy and more ubiquitous, with some offering draft beer for the insanely cheap price of ¥300 a glass. We also witnessed some crazy nomihodai offers such as drink all the vodka you can in an hour for just ¥780.